A flurry of recent reports surrounding the disappearance of the Lyon sisters have been published this week as Virginia and Montgomery County officials announced the indictment of convicted sex offender Lloyd Lee Welch as the prime suspect in the case.
However, police and prosecutors who have talked at length about the case during two different press conferences this week have noted that the investigation is complicated and ongoing, which means they can’t reveal many details about the case.
Here is what is known so far based on what police have said in press conferences and news reports on the investigation:
March 25, 1975 – Sheila Lyon, 12 and her sister Katherine, 10, disappear after walking from their Kensington home to Wheaton Plaza.
April 1, 1975 – Lloyd Lee Welch, then 18, is interviewed by police and says he saw the sisters get into a car with a man and leave the mall.
Spring 1975 – Two relatives of Welch say around this time he brought two duffel bags that smelled like decay and were covered in red stains to Taylors Mountain in Bedford County, Virginia. One of Welch’s cousins told police he helped throw the bags into a fire on the property, according to search warrant affidavits filed in court and cited in news reports.
1977 – Lloyd Welch is arrested in a Hobson Street burglary case in Kensington and his mugshot is taken.
1998 – Lloyd Welch pleads guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in Delaware and is sentenced to 30 years in prison.
2013 – Montgomery County detectives reopen the Lyon sisters case and investigators begin to focus on Lloyd Welch after reading the April 1975 interview. Investigators notice Welch’s 1977 mugshot closely resembles a sketch of a man that was made based on a description provided by a friend of the sisters. The friend had told police the she confronted the man at the mall after he “had stared at the girls so long and so intently,” according to a Washington Post report.
September 2014 – Police begin digging for evidence related to the Lyon sisters’ disappearance on Taylors Mountain. Police said the Welch family owned property on the rural mountain and that detectives connected Lloyd Welch to the area around the time the girls disappeared.
October 2, 2014 – Police name Lloyd Welch’s uncle, Richard Welch, a Hyattsville resident, as a “person of interest” in the case.
October 3, 2014 – Bedford County Commonwealth Attorney Richard Krantz announces a grand jury has been convened in Bedford to weigh evidence in the case.
December 2014 – Richard Welch’s wife, Patricia Welch, is indicted for perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury.
July 15, 2014 – Police and prosecutors from Montgomery and Bedford counties announce the indictment of Lloyd Lee Welch on first-degree murder charges at a press conference in Wheaton.
July 16, 2014 – Prosecutors and police hold a second press conference in Virginia in which they say the motive in the case was sexual exploitation. They also say they’re continuing to investigate the case and plan to hold anyone involved for the girls’ disappearance accountable.
Lloyd Lee Welch – He is the prime suspect in the case and the only person formally indicted. Welch is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. The 58-year-old former carnival ride operator has been linked to the Wheaton Mall area at the time of the girls’ disappearance. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence at Vaugh Correctional Center in Delaware after he pleaded guilty in 1998 for sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl in 1997. According to Montgomery County police, Welch also has other convictions for sexually assaulting young girls in South Carolina and Virginia.
Police believe during the 1970s and ‘80s Welch “was considered a drifter” who often stayed in hotels and homeless shelters. Investigators say he was also employed as a landscaper in South Carolina and Delaware at various times.
About a week after the Lyon sisters disappeared, Welch told a security guard at Wheaton Plaza he saw the sisters get into a man’s car and leave, according to affidavits filed in court that were cited by The Washington Post. Detectives then interviewed Welch and gave him a polygraph—the results of which determined he was “being untruthful in the interview,” according to the paper’s report.
Police note Welch was later arrested in 1977 for a burglary on Hobson Street in Kensington, a few blocks from Wheaton Plaza. Detectives said this week that when the case was reopened in 2013, investigators gravitated toward Welch after noticing his mugshot from the burglary arrest bore a strong likeness to a suspect sketch made at the time of the sisters’ disappearance.
In Delaware, relatives of Lloyd Welch said they don’t believe he killed the girls. Debbie Roe, Welch’s niece, told The News Journal this week that Welch said he and his girlfriend—identified by police as Helen Craver—“were walking around the mall to submit work applications and saw someone taking pictures or recording the sisters. They left the mall and saw the girls get into the car with someone.”
The Washington Post has reported that Welch wrote a letter to the paper saying he didn’t have anything to do with the sisters’ disappearance and that police are investigating the wrong person.
If convicted, Welch could face the death penalty in the case.
Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown said Thursday police believe the motive in the case was Lloyd Lee Welch’s desire to sexually assault the sisters.
“We believe that the purpose of this abduction and ultimate murder of the Lyon sisters was for sexual exploitation purposes,” Randy Krantz, Commonwealth’s attorney for Bedford County, said at a press conference Thursday.
Individuals under investigation
Richard “Dick” Welch – Lloyd Lee Welch’s 70-year-old uncle, who lives in Hyattsville. Lloyd Lee Welch told police he saw Richard Welch sexually assaulting one of the girls in Richard’s Hyattsville home. Police have not charged Richard Welch with any crime. Investigators said Thursday they’re gathering evidence about his alleged involvement, but have struggled due to what Montgomery County police Capt. Darren Francke called “an ongoing conspiracy” to cover up what happened.
Police have said Richard Welch worked as a security guard in or near the mall at the time the girls disappeared. Richard’s daughter has denied her father had any involvement in the case.
Patricia Welch – Richard Welch’s wife,Patricia, is facing perjury charges in the case after allegedly lying to a grand jury in December.
Henry Parker – He is the cousin of Lloyd Lee Welch who reportedly told investigators he helped Welch throw two red-stained duffel bags that smelled of decomposition into a fire on Taylors Mountain in 1975.
Lloyd Welch’s interviews with police – Welch reportedly told Montgomery County detectives recently that he saw his uncle, Richard Welch, sexually assaulting one of the girls at his uncle’s house in Hyattsville. Lloyd Welch also told detectives that he left the Wheaton mall with the girls. Richard Welch has denied having any role in the girls’ disappearance.
Mark Janney, a Montgomery County police detective, said Thursday at a press conference in Virginia that police are not relying solely on Lloyd Welch’s statements in their investigation of Richard Welch, who has not yet been charged.
Henry Parker, Connie Akers and the duffel bags – Parker and Akers are Welch’s cousins. They told investigators about the existence of two large duffel bags that smelled of decomposition that Welch brought with him to the family’s Taylors Mountain property in 1975. Henry said he helped Welch throw the duffel bags, which weighed between 60 and 70 pounds each, into a fire on the property. Akers also told investigators Welch was carrying bloody clothing as well as the duffel bags. The Akers and Parker interviews with police were released in court papers Wednesday.
Other key people involved in the case
Helen Craver – Lloyd Lee Welch’s girlfriend at the time. Police say Craver often accompanied Welch during his travels and worked for the same carnival company. She died in 2009.
Edna Welch – Lloyd Lee Welch’s 81-year-old stepmother who lives in Tennessee. She reportedly told police Lloyd Welch went to Wheaton Plaza about a week after the girls disappeared to attempt to get reward money that was offered for information about the sisters’ whereabouts, according to The Washington Post. However, according to the paper’s report, police wrote in affidavits that Welch told investigators he asked Edna Welch to tell police this to remove suspicion that he was involved in the girls’ disappearance. Edna Welch told the paper she has not lied to help Lloyd.
Edna Welch was one of the first people investigators contacted after reopening the case in 2013 and focusing on Lloyd Welch as a suspect.