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The Guilt Ridden Heart

 ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ is a short story written by Edgar Allen Poe.  It is about a man that committed a murder, then hid the dismembered body beneath his house.  As time passes, he hears the dead man’s heart beating louder and louder in his head, until he finally cracks.  It was the stress from guilt that created the beating heart noise in his head. 

The story is a great example of human nature and how the human mind works.  These aspects of human nature are inherent in almost all of us. They have been used for centuries to catch liars in their web of deceit.  The stress of deceit is still exploited by wise investigators today.  It is what makes the polygraph and Voice Stress Analysis effective lie detecting tools.  However, there is much more to be gleaned from an individual’s language than just deception. 

The human brain projects what it knows, even when the person might want to withhold information from another.  Understanding how to mine this valuable information from the words one uses, is a technique used by the wisest of investigators.  It takes practice and skill, but it is exhilarating!

 The case below is a good example of what a guilty heart and mind will divulge.  As you will see, the suspect not only revealed guilty knowledge, but he also revealed his own personality traits and more.  

On September 2, 2017, Tyler Tessier took his fiancée, Laura Wallen, on an outing, the destination of which was going to be a surprise for Laura.  At the time, Laura was pregnant with Tyler’s unborn child.  Laura was also preparing to start a new school year, as school teacher, a job she dearly loved.  During the outing, Laura sent text messages to her sister, telling her that Tyler was taking her out for a surprise outing.  A short time later, Laura sent another message to her sister stating she was in a field and didn’t know what they were doing there.  Along with the text, Laura sent her sister a photo of the field she was in.  That was the last time Laura’s family had contact from Laura.  On September 5th, Laura did not show up for the 1st day of school.  Her parents reported her missing that day.  When questioned, Tyler said he dropped Laura off at home after their date, and besides some text messages from her, he had not seen her.

 From the onset of the investigation, Laura’s family and police suspected Tyler might be responsible for Laura’s disappearance.   On September 13th, while Laura was still a “missing person,” Montgomery County Police organized a press conference with the cooperation of Laura’s family.  This was a brilliant move by the investigators.  The sole purpose of the press conference was to see what Tyler would say.  It was Statement Analysis in action.

 The police spoke first.  Their prologue was masterful, as they set the stage and focused on their solid investigation which would surely lead to the arrest of whoever may be responsible for Laura’s disappearance.  Tyler sat next to Mrs. Wallen, holding her hand during the press conference.  Mrs. Wallen, later revealed she played the part, but she was shaking so bad, she had to use two hands in order to keep her hand in Tyler’s. 

 After police spoke, Laura’s father spoke.  Although he suspected Laura may be dead, he spoke in the positive, reassuring Laura that they were not giving up and they would bring her home. 

 The time was then turned over to Laura’s fiancée, Tyler Tessier.  What did they have to glean from Tyler’s statement?  Let’s find out… Tyler’s statement is followed by the analysis.  

 

The question for analysis is: Does Tyler Tessier have guilty knowledge of Laura’s disappearance?

We seek to learn what Tyler’s linguistic disposition is toward his fiancée.  Is he being completely honest, or is he withholding information?  Is there other information (Latent Content) that Tyler unknowingly gives away?

  T: "Thank you all for coming here, um, Laura, if your listening, it doesn't matter what’s happened, it doesn't matter what type of trouble, there’s nothing we can't fix together – myself and your family. There’s so many people, so many people that miss you, so many people who were out, who haven't slept. We haven't eaten. We are just looking or praying that you’re safe.  I’m asking to just let us know that your safe.  If somebody has her, please understand that you've taken away a huge, a huge person in so many people’s lives.  Friends and family, students that she has.  I know what she means to me, and I know what she means to everybody else. We just want to know she's OK. We just want her back.  Thank You."  

 

 Q: Tyler can you talk about what she’d been like the over the last couple weeks and your interaction with her?

T: Um like Mr. Wallen said, she was uh, super excited for the start of the school year. I know uh, she had talked to some, the principal and her teachers, like her co-workers about um, her being pregnant and how excited she was, and uh, it’s just a complete shock that (pause) I mean I think leading up to the, leading up to the weekend that she’s missing, I mean I don’t, I don’t believe anybody has any inclination to think anything was wrong or... 

 

Q: Do you remember any of your last conversations with her?

T: I don’t know where she is, that’s all, I don’t know.  I know were all trying to do everything we can to find her and, I just pray that, I pray she’s safe, she comes back. That’s all I care about right now.

 

Q: How long have you all been together and how long have you been dating her?

T: Laura and I have known each other probably for 10 years now.  Um, we’ve know, any normal relationship, just take one step at a time and ya take the progress that comes with ya, and been to doctor’s meetings, we’ve been sonograms, all the pre-natal care you could ask…sorry.”

 

Analysis:

"Thank you all for coming here,

Tyler has a need to be seen in a positive light.  It is important to note that Tyler is thanking “you all,” which includes a significant presence from the police department as well as the media.  This press conference took place days after Laura was reported missing.  Laura had not yet been found.  He was thanking the police (and the media), who had not found her. 

 

um, Laura, if you’re listening,

Every word is important to the analysis.  Here, “um” is important as it is a pause to think, a pause in the speedy process of the brain.     

Tyler addresses Laura personally, using her name, which we note as a positive linguistic disposition (+). 

However, Tyler then utilized extra and unnecessary wording, which is doubly important in analysis. 

We all have an internal subjective dictionary.  On average, most people have about 25,000 words in their internal subjective dictionary.  As humans, we adhere to the law of economy, meaning we are naturally efficient with our energies including our speech.  Expending more energies or using extra & unnecessary words requires deliberate effort.  With deliberate effort there is a reason behind it.  This is also true when we recognize that information was deliberately skipped over.  There is a reason for it and that is what we learn from a person’s words, the reason why.

 When we speak, we choose which words out of those 25,000, will effectively communicate what we want to say.  We choose the verb tenses, order of each word, appropriate pronouns, etc.  All this takes place instinctively in a fraction of a second.  It is that miraculously fast processing of the brain that gives Statement Analysts consistent results time after time.

In this case, Tyler utilized the words, “if you’re listening.” The sentence would still make sense and be complete without the use of those words.  The important question we must ask is why did Tyler’s brain choose to send those words to his tongue in a micro-second of time, or perhaps longer since he had the pause (“um”) preceding it. We let his words guide us to the answer.

Tyler introduced doubt into the statement with the word, “if.”  He could have continued speaking directly to Laura, which would be appropriate for a man unwilling to give up hope that the love of his life, his fiancé and the mother of his unborn child, will surely be found.  Parents and other loved ones do not give up hope.  They give the police full support and a chance to find their missing loved one.  If the police fail, the parents and loved ones still do not give up hope.  They continue to post flyers and strive to keep the case alive and in the public’s eye.  There is no doubt heard in their language.  There is determination, we will find you!”

One might suggest that Tyler used the word “if” because he really wasn’t sure if Laura would be listening or not.  We note that is a definite possibility.  However, in that same context, keep in mind that Tyler’s brain formulated his statement based on all his knowledge, for better or worse.  His language will guide us as we continue on… and he does not make us wait long for the answer.

 it doesn't matter what’s happened, it doesn't matter what type of trouble,

Tyler speaks in the negative, twice, furthering the sensitivity of this sentence.  We always note that which is spoken in the negative as sensitive, and what comes after it is going to be important.  Tyler lets us know that something “happened” and that it was “trouble.”  But here he self-censors, interrupting his brain process.  He cut short the thought that was in his mind, as it was a thought he probably did not want verbalized to police and the media.  But there is more… he not only introduced trouble, but “what type” of trouble, suggesting there may have been more than one type of trouble Laura dealt with.

Note: this sentence is also a subtle blaming of the victim.  He is suggesting that Laura got herself into trouble.  This is common among the guilty.  They typically shift blame from themselves and onto their victims…’if they had only acted differently, all would be well.’  It is typically subtle, and missed by most, except those with training.

Tyler is suggesting that it doesn’t matter that something happened to Laura, and that it was trouble.  It was her fault.  We have to ask ourselves, does this sound like he is speaking to Laura?  Remember, Tyler introduced doubt that Laura could be listening to him.  His language tells us that he has already conceded the fight to find her.  The only person that would consider that whatever has happened to Laura does not matter, is Tyler himself.  This is his verbalized perception of reality.

 there’s nothing we can't fix together – myself and your family.

Tyler continues to speak in the negative, which continues telegraphing that this topic is sensitive to Tyler.  This wording gives us a good understanding of Tyler’s perception of reality and his priorities.  That Tyler chose to use the word “fix” tells us that there is something that needs fixed.  

“fix together”  If Tyler is speaking to Laura, we can safely assume he means that he and Laura can fix anything together, ‘you and I,’ with Laura (you) being the priority.  However, Tyler’s priority is “myself.”  Is he psychologically attached to Laura?  Is she who he has in mind when he used the words we and together?  The answer is, No. After himself, he is thinking of “your family.”  Tyler has just begun speaking, and already his words have revealed that his psychological attachment to Laura has been severed.      

 

There’s so many people, so many people that miss you, so many people who were out, who haven't slept.

When words are repeated, we note an increase in sensitivity.  Here we have Tyler repeating “so many people” three times.  The words “so many people” are not specific to any one person, or group or gender.  What is expected from a grieving fiancé? It is expected that he would take this opportunity to tell his love, that he, himself, misses her.  Yet he does not.  It is the non-specific so many people that miss her.  It is this same non-specific and unknown people that were out and haven’t slept.  What were they out doing?  He does not say, and we do not interpret his intent. Is he part of this group that was out, or part of the group that haven’t slept?  His words tell us that he was not.

What comes next, is a topic that Tyler psychologically inserts himself into…

We haven't eaten.

Pronouns are powerful in analysis.  They are not subject to interpretation.  Pronouns do not lie.  When the pronoun “we” is used, we know the subject is psychologically involved.  We believe him.  Tyler is focused on eating. Have you ever heard an innocent, and grief-stricken person mention they haven’t eaten?  In all my 28 years in law enforcement, I haven’t.  It goes without saying that the grief stricken will not think about eating and certainly will not tell others they have not eaten.  The opposite is also true…as in this case.

We must also note with the pronoun, “we,” that Tyler feels a need to associate himself with others.  He does not want to be alone in this situation.  He can’t bring himself to speak one on one to Laura.  It does not stop there…

We are just looking or praying that you’re safe. 

Tyler could have said, I’m looking for you and I pray you are safe.  Tyler did not say that.  Once again, he associated himself with the crowd, “we.”  We take specific note of the dependent word, “just.”  This word tells us that he has an alternate thought in mind, which lessens the commitment of what comes after it, that he and others are looking or praying…but there is more.  Tyler did not finish his thought regarding looking.  He self-censored, and then changed his thought, as if they weren’t looking, but rather, just praying she is safe.  The question to ask, is why he would self-censor regarding looking for Laura?  Does he want her to be found?

 

I’m asking to just let us know that you’re safe. 

Tyler does not ask for Laura to come home, or to be returned… in fact, Tyler did not say, Laura please let us know you’re safe, in the form of a question.  Rather, Tyler stated that he was asking a question.  Tyler is aware of his audience.  Although he is allegedly speaking to Laura, this sentence was made for the benefit of the audience.    

The use of the dependent word, just, tells us that Tyler has an alternate thought in his mind.

 

If somebody has her, please understand that you've taken away a huge, a huge person in so many people’s lives. 

Once again, Tyler introduces doubt with the word, if.   We then note that Tyler does not directly address whoever Laura may be with.  He does not say how he feels about Laura, or what she means to him personally.  Rather, he tells us that she is huge (repeated) in so many people’s lives.  He cannot say what she means to himself, so he attempts to persuade that she is “huge” in other lives.  We might ask, what does Tyler mean by “huge” and who is included in so many people?  He answers part of the question next… 

 

Friends and family, students that she has. 

This is Tyler’s perception of the “so many people” that Laura was huge to.  Note, that it does not include himself. 

 I know what she means to me, and I know what she means to everybody else.

It is important to note that Tyler has quit using Laura’s name.  His language is akin to a eulogy.  Tyler did not say, Laura means everything to me, but instead he stated what he knows.  He knows what she means to him, but he did not say what that is. 

Tyler once again stated what he knows when it comes to everybody else.  He feels the need to be among the crowd.  It is a deceptive tactic…if she means a lot to everybody else, you must accept that she means a lot to me. 

Note that there is actually a distinct division between what “she means to me” and “what she means to everybody else” in Tyler’s verbalized perception of reality. They are two different things… which correlates back to Tyler not including himself among the people that Laura means so much to.

 

We just want to know she's OK. We just want her back.  Thank You."  

Tyler continues to ‘stay in the crowd’ with the pronoun we used twiceHe cannot bring himself to say “I want you back.”  By associating himself with those that do want Laura back safe, Tyler hopes that we will assume he also wants the same.  However, he has not stated that he does and we cannot assume it or state it for him. 

Again, Tyler uses the dependent word, “just,” not once, but twice, which lessens the importance of what comes after it and compares the topic to an alternative thought. 

Tyler’s priority is noted as follows: 

1.    To know that she is OK.

2.    We want her back.

  At this point in the press conference, Tyler is able to sit down.  It appears that he believes he is done speaking.  The detective then spoke for about six minutes, which was plenty of time to put Tyler at ease and let his guard down.  It was a brilliant tactic.  The detective then opened it up for questions.  A question was asked of Laura’s father, followed by questions directed to Tyler.  Here are the questions asked of Tyler with his responses and analysis:  

 Q: Tyler can you talk about what she’d been like the over the last couple weeks and your interaction with her?

T: Um like Mr. Wallen said, she was uh, super excited for the start of the school year. I know uh, she had talked to some, the principal and her teachers, like her co-workers about um, her being pregnant and how excited she was, and uh, it’s just a complete shock that (long pause) I mean I think leading up to the, leading up to the weekend that she’s missing, I mean I don’t, I don’t believe anybody has any inclination to think anything was wrong or... 

 

Note how Tyler referred to Laura’s father, “like Mr. Wallen said…”  This is a referral to a truthful and credible statement.  However, the words did not belong to Tyler, they belonged to Laura’s father. 

Tyler goes on to stumble over his words and even speaks out of order.  Then, at the end of his ramblings, Tyler’s brain cannot set aside what it knows, and Tyler cannot control it.  He did not prepare a response to this question…this is off the cuff. Remember what the question is: what she’d been like over the last couple weeks and his interaction with her? 

 “I mean I don’t, I don’t believe anybody has any inclination to think anything was wrong or...  

We note the high sensitivity with the negative language repeated.  We always note negative language as sensitive.  We also always note anything repeated as sensitive.

Knowing the heightened sensitivity, we now note that Tyler did NOT say, I did not think anything was wrong or Our relationship was great.  Tyler is thinking about his interactions with Laura leading up to the weekend she disappeared.  What he tells us is not what he thought, nor is it about his interaction with Laura.  Instead, he tells us what he does not believe, which is that anybody has any inclination to think, that anything was wrong.   This is important, given the context of the question: what she’d been like the over the last couple weeks and your interaction with her?  Tyler’s brain cannot withhold what he knows, that something was wrong regarding his interactions with Laura.  

Unfortunately, Tyler was interrupted with another question before he could finish his admission…  Note his answer to this next question.

 Q: Do you remember any of your last conversations with her?

T: I don’t know where she is, that’s all, I don’t know.  I know we’re all trying to do everything we can to find her and, I just pray that, I pray she’s safe, she comes back. That’s all I care about right now.  

Keep in mind, the brain will formulate a statement based upon all its knowledge.  Tyler’s brain has given away what is foremost on Tyler’s mind…which is Laura’s location.   Tyler is so nervous at this point, that he cannot even comprehend the question.  Instead, he gives an unreliable denial to a question that has not yet been asked.  Why does he do so?  Because his brain is telling him that the question will certainly be asked, so he attempts to pre-empt it.  He did not believe before, that anybody thought anything was wrong, but he obviously does now as he blurts out: 

“I don’t know where she is, that’s all, I don’t know.” 

If there was any doubt in the investigator’s minds that Tyler has guilty knowledge regarding Laura’s disappearance, there should not be now.  Tyler asserts, “That’s all,” which is extra wording and very unexpected.  Why does he add those words?  He really wants us to believe that he cannot have any other information.  For analysts, it is a signal that he does know much more.  It is a red flag.  Tyler certainly knows more than that.  Remember, he has avoided the original question.  Since that is all, there is nothing more to ask about and nothing more for the police to investigate.  It is in essence, a plea from Tyler to stop the questioning.  His anxiety is high…the staged press conference has been very effective.

Tyler’s anxiety continues to manifest with, “I don’t know,” repeated twice – showing extreme sensitivity, to a question that was not asked.

 

Tyler never does answer the actual question asked.  He keeps himself buried in the proverbial crowd with, “I know we’re all trying to do everything we can to find her…” 

We note that it is not him doing everything he can to find her, but it is “were all trying.”  Trying does not mean it is happening.  It is a subtle way of saying it is not actually happening.  It is a lack of commitment. 

 

 Q: How long have you all been together and how long have you been dating her?

T: Laura and I have known each other probably for 10 years now.  Um, we’ve know, any normal relationship, just take one step at a time and ya take the progress that comes with ya, and been to doctor’s meetings, we’ve been sonograms, all the pre-natal care you could ask…sorry.”

The question is two pronged, which is not a good way to phrase a question. Tyler begins his answer with a truthful and reliable sentence.  “Laura and I have known each other probably for 10 years now.”   Tyler can easily say how long they have known each other.  He could have stopped there, but he did not.  He added extra language, that strayed from the focus of the question.  Why did he do that?  Because he has information that he does not want the rest of us to know.  He feels the need to keep that information contained in his brain and to steer us in a different direction.  Unfortunately for Tyler, he (nor any of us) cannot formulate a statement without using all the information his brain possesses.  That information which is most taxing on his brain at that moment, will manifest in his words.  Let’s look at how this manifested is Tyler’s words:

Um, we’ve know, any normal relationship…”  If a relationship is “normal,” one does not feel the need to express the normalcy to others.  When the word normal appears, we know that the relationship has been viewed as abnormal by either Tyler or someone else. However, in this case, Tyler only refers to a normal relationship.  The same “normal” principle applies, but with the noted sensitivity that Tyler cannot bring himself to say that their relationship was normal.  He wants us to believe it was, without him actually stating it. 

We note that Tyler easily stated a how long he and Laura knew each other.  It was a truthful statement.  And as such, it flowed easily off his tongue.  There is a stark difference between Tyler’s truthful statement and what follows…which is a lot of self-censoring, and passive language.  Tyler cannot form one full sentence relating to their relationship or Laura’s pregnancy.  He utilizes passive language which distances him from responsibility in the relationship.  His language is such that even the untrained may question the veracity of his statement and whether their relationship was normal or not. 

 

Laura’s body was found a few days after the press conference.  She was buried in a shallow grave, in the same field she took a picture of and sent to her sister.

 Tyler confessed to shooting Laura in the back of her head and burying her in the field during their “surprise outing.”  He is charged with her murder.

 https://www.pscp.tv/mcpnews/1OdJrovmdkOxX?t=378 – news conference

 

 Update:  While dressing for trial, Tyler Tessier was left alone in his cell.  He was found deceased a few hours later, after hanging himself.  We refer to cases like this as: case adjudicated by a higher authority.

 Detective Steve Johnson is a 28-year police veteran (retired).  During his career he obtained certifications as a Certified Voice Stress Analyst (lie detection), Certified Statement Analyst, and Certified Forensic Handwriting Analyst.  He is now a full time Instructor and Analyst for Law Enforcement, Legal and Corporate organizations.  His Statement Analysis seminars, and Advanced seminars co-taught with Peter Hyatt, are consistently evaluated by veteran investigators as the most useful investigative training of their careers.  Visit www.Truth2Lies.com for available classes, or contact Steve to host a training for your organization. 

 

Steve Johnson