Family offers $25K reward for information on missing Wilde Lake High teacher Laura Wallen. (WJZ video)
A week after their daughter's disappearance, the parents of missing Wilde Lake High School teacher Laura Wallen announced Monday they were offering a $25,000 reward for any information leading to her return.
Wallen's parents ,Mark and Gwen Wallen; her boyfriend, Tyler Tessier; and her sister and brother-in-law, Jennifer and Jon Kadi, attended the press conference held by Montgomery County police, who are investigating Wallen's disappearance.
Wallen lives in Olney.
Lt. Sean Gagen, deputy director of the department's major crimes division, said detectives are classifying Wallen's disappearance as a missing person and do not believe foul play is a factor at this time.
Over the weekend, police confirmed they found the 2011 black Ford Escape, with Maryland license plate M522473, belonging to the social studies teacher in an apartment complex in the 10600 block of Gramercy Place near the Mall in Columbia.
Wallen, 31, is four months pregnant and was reported missing on Sept. 5 after her family told police that they hadn't heard from her since she sent them a text message the day before. She was absent on Tuesday, Sept. 5 – the first day of school in Howard County.
"Over the course of the last several days, detectives and members of our forensic services section have processed Ms. Wallen's apartment and her vehicle looking for any evidence or information that may lead to her whereabouts," Gagen said outside the police department's headquarters in Gaithersburg. "We are currently awaiting the results of forensic testing to be completed by our crime lab. Detectives continue to interview family, friends and coworkers of Ms. Wallen."
Detectives are awaiting the return of several subpoenas to search the last possible locations Wallen was seen as well as who she may have been with, Gagen said. The electronic crimes unit is also searching her computer for information.
"The investigation is quite fluid and detectives continue to follow up on tips as they come in as well as reviewing surveillance videos from locations where people have claimed to have last seen Laura Wallen," he said.
During the press conference, Mark Wallen said the family will continue "looking for her and we're not giving up on her."
"She is still alive somewhere and our family would like to offer a reward of $25,000 that would lead to any information that would bring us back to her," Wallen said. "We miss her and love her."
Wallen said his daughter, who is the senior class sponsor at Wilde Lake High, was actively preparing for the school year and raising money for fundraisers. He said he called the school on Sept. 5 to see if she arrived for her first class, but was told she did not arrive yet since she didn't teach first period.
When he called later that morning, Wallen said, he learned she never showed up and did not call in for a substitute teacher.
"I knew that if she hadn't called in a substitute teacher, it was not a good sign," Wallen said. "It gave us serious concern."
Tessier, who is the father of Wallen's baby and has known Wallen for about 10 years, said she was "super excited" for the school year and was talking to Wilde Lake principal Rick Wilson, teachers and coworkers about her pregnancy. Her disappearance was "a complete shock," he said.
"Leading up to the week that she was missing, I don't believe anybody had an inclination to think that something was wrong," Tessier said. "I don't know where she is. We're all trying to do everything we can to find her and I just pray that she's safe and comes back. That's all I care about right now."
They had been attending doctor's appointments, including sonograms and prenatal care needs, Tessier said.
Wilde Lake High School students began sharing notes of appreciation onWallen's classroom door, according to the high school's Class of 2018 Twitter account. Brian Bassett, a spokesman for the school system, said they're continuing to offer the administrative team, student services staff and the school system's crisis team for emotional support.
Police said Wallen is 5 feet 5 inches tall, 200 pounds and has blonde hair and blue eyes. Anyone with information about her whereabouts is asked to call the Montgomery County Police Department's non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.