ANNAPOLIS, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - An Olney family is fighting to change fetal homicide laws in Maryland after their pregnant daughter was brutally murdered by her boyfriend.
The family of Laura Wallen testified on Friday before a Senate committee hearing to support a bill named after their daughter and her unborn child: the Laura and Reid's Law.
Laura Wallen was a beloved teacher in Howard County who was excited about becoming a mother, but in September 2017, she was shot execution style and buried in a shallow grave by her then-boyfriend Tyler Tessier.
He was later arrested and charged for her murder just days after he stood at a press conference, held hands with her parents and pleaded for information about her whereabouts.
Laura Wallen's family wanted Tessier to also be charged for murder in the death of her unborn child, but Maryland's law requires a fetus to be "viable" outside the womb to charge someone with fetal homicide. Laura Wallen's unborn child was only 14 weeks old.
"It was a clear injustice. When we found out that Laura had been murdered and I found out it wasn't double murder it just seemed totally wrong. Totally unfair that he wouldn't be prosecuted for both," Mark Wallen, the father of Laura Wallen said.
Now, Senator Justin Ready is seeking to repeal the word "viable" from the law and allow prosecution if a woman is at least 8 weeks pregnant.
Ready's bill states it would have to be proven that the offender knew the woman was pregnant and knowingly intended to harm the unborn child.
"It's a separate section of the law and it's not related to medical procedures or abortion and I really tried to make it clear that we were trying to focus on this specific problem," Ready explained. "It actually mirrors California, which has done the same thing and there's been no cry in California of any sort of problems."
Still, some pro-choice groups oppose the bill because of the impact it could have on abortion laws and reproductive rights, but the Wallen family said they will not let that deter them.
"I have to look at myself in a mirror every day and if another woman died because I didn't come here to testify and tell about our story then I couldn't forgive myself," Qwen Wallen, the mother of Laura Wallen said.
On the same day his trial was set to begin, Tessier was found hanging from a bed sheet from the top bunk of his bed in prison. He death was ruled a suicide.