It was a heartbreaking day for the parents of Sheila, 12, and Katherine Lyons, 10, when their two young daughters disappeared on March 25, 1975. Now almost 40 years later, investigators may finally be close to solving the case, and bringing some closure to the Lyons family.
It was a beautiful March morning in the suburbs of Maryland, and the Lyons sisters were happy to be on their spring break. The two girls decided to take a walk to a nearby shopping center to look at some Easter decorations and have some pizza, but to the dismay of their parents, they never returned home that day.
According to a witness, the Lyons sisters were seen at a pizza shop around 2 p.m., but what happened afterwards has been a mystery to detectives.
At the time of the initial investigation, police interviewed a man named Lloyd Welch. Welch admitted to being in a car with the Lyons sisters that day, along with his uncle, Richard Welch Sr., and his cousin, Thomas Welch Jr., who was 10 at the time. According to Lloyd Welch, his uncle, Richard, dropped him off at a location near his home, and then drove off with the Lyons sisters still in his car. Lloyd claims that he went to visit his uncle at his house the next day, and saw him having sex with one of the Lyons sisters. He says it was the last time he ever saw the sisters.
Lloyd Welch was not arrested at the time, but has since become a person of interest. New detectives brought a set of fresh eyes to the case in 2013. Detective Dave Davis decided to take a new look at the Lyons sisters’ disappearance in May, 2013, and right away he noticed the interview with Lloyd Welch. Not only did his interview stand out, but what Welch had been up to since then is what really caught Detective Davis’ attention.
Lloyd Welch is now a convicted sexual offender. In 1992, he was with a 10-year-old girl watching a horror movie, and the little girl got scared and climbed into bed with him. When she woke up, she discovered that he was molesting her. Welch plead guilty in 1994 and was sentenced to 18 months in jail. Three years after getting out of jail, Welch was playing pornographic movies in the presence of another 10-year-old girl, and reportedly held the girl for over a week so he could abuse her. He was sentenced to a lengthy prison term in Delaware.
In 2014, two more detectives joined the Lyons sisters’ investigation: Katie Leggett, who had spent 12 years investigating child abuse, and Mark Janney, who had spent the majority of his career investigating drug conspiracies. Both of the new detectives had children of their own, and that was a huge motivating factor for them pressing forward with their investigation. They knew how painful it would be as parents to have your children be missing and not have any answers. Both of the Lyons sisters parents are still alive, as well as their brothers, one of whom actually became a police officer for Montgomery County.
Now that the suspicion has shifted to Lloyd Welch, the detectives hope to make some progress in the 40-year-old case. The detectives discovered the family had some property 220 miles from their office in suburban Maryland. The detectives won’t reveal the details of what lead them out to the property in the Virginia mountains, but the specifics are in a warrant filed with the court to allow a search of the property.
Lloyd’s uncle Richard owned a small parcel of land in Bedford, and next to that, his sister owned a 34-acre piece of property. The authorities drove out to the property 6 months ago, and discovered a family graveyard on the land. To dig up the property, investigators have had to call the FBI in for help. They need specialists that are trained to look through sifters, and hopefully find some clues that could be smaller than a pencil eraser.
Since February of 2014, when Lloyd Welch was announced as a person of interest in the Lyons sisters case, his uncle, Richard Welch, and his wife, Patricia, have made several trips into Bedford, according to the police. They say that the Welch’s seemed extremely interested in the investigation, and whether or not any of their family members had spoken with detectives. Authorities have revealed that one of the Welch family members reported seeing Lloyd Welch out at the family’s property in the spring of 1975 after the Lyons sisters went missing.
The Welch family feels like the detectives are obsessed with their family and have had tunnel vision this whole time. Lloyd Welch commented in a letter from prison to the Washington Post saying, “I tried to tell them I had nothing to do with this, and look where it got me. My family’s and my lives turned upside down.”
The investigation into the Lyons sisters disappearance is ongoing, but it appears that police are getting closer to filing some sort of charges on members of the Welch family. Currently they have no bodies, but they are declining to comment on any other evidence they may have in their possession, reports the Huffington Post.
[Photo courtesy of the Associated Press]