ROCKVILLE – For years it was the case left unsolved. No more.
Police say they now have the man responsible for kidnapping and killing two young sisters in 1975.
Police charged Lloyd Lee Michael Welch Jr. with two counts of first-degree felony murder in the deaths of Katherine and Sheila Lyon, 10 and 12, who were kidnapped from the Wheaton area on March 25, 1975.
“This team, over the past two years, as spent 16,000 hours working on this case. They served over 50 search warrants related to this case, dozens of subpoenas have been issued, reams of documents analyzed and numerous items of evidence seized,” said Montgomery County Chief of Police Tom Manger.
Welch is currently incarcerated on a child rape conviction in the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware.
Manger added that the investigation is still not finished, noting that law enforcement hopes to uncover “every fact in this case.”
The FBI, the Montgomery County Police Department and Virginia State Police were among the agencies working together on the investigation, according to Bedford County, Virginia, Sherriff Mike Brown.
“Their bulldog tenacity in achieving justice for the Lyons family and their profound loss never wavered, and it never will,” said Brown.
Bedford County is where the search effort was concentrated, as investigators believe that the girls were buried there, specifically on Taylors Mountain.
Indictments in the case were sealed on July 10, and were unsealed on Wednesday, and the murder charges were “based upon the totality of evidence revealed by law enforcement and sworn witness testimony,” according to Brown.
Randy Krantz, the Bedford County commonwealth’s attorney, said there were two indictments charging Welch with first-degree felony murder during abduction with intent to defile the Lyons sisters.
Krantz also pointed out that Welch will be tried in Bedford County.
“It is our intent, and it is our duty, not only to bring justice to this community, but also, and most importantly, to the Lyons family,” said Krantz.
The case picked up speed in May 2013 when cold case investigators reviewed Lloyd Welch’s 1975 interview where Welch had told a security guard he saw the girls get into a car with an unknown man. In October 2014 as investigators searched Taylor’s Mountain and named Richard Welch, Lloyd’s uncle, as another person of interest. Krantz also convened a grand jury at that time.
In October, MCPD Assistant Chief and Captain Russell Hamill said the uncle may have worked as a security guard in the Wheaton area during that time, but police are looking for more information on his employment.
Hamill said police know where the uncle is but cannot reveal his location. He was thought to have owned land in Bedford County on Taylor’s Mountain.
Documents that police unsealed in Feb. 2015 also revealed information confirmingthe involvement of multiple people in the case.
In the attachment to the unsealed warrants and affidavits, Bedford investigator Steven Smith said person of interest Lloyd Welch admitted to leaving Wheaton Plaza with Katherine and Sheila Lyon, ages 10 and 12, on March 25, 1975. Welch also implicated his cousin, Thomas Welch, Jr. and his uncle, Richard Welch, in the kidnapping and presumed murder. This information led investigators to search a clearing with unmarked graves on Taylor Mountain near land owned by Richard Welch and a property previously owned by Richard’s sister, Elizabeth Parker, whom Richard visited in 1975 according to a witness.
Welch admitted he left Wheaton Plaza in a vehicle with the girls and handed them off to his uncle and cousin. The next day he said he observed his uncle having sexual intercourse with one of the sisters. During these interviews Welch maintained he did not kill the girls or know where they were buried.
On Feb. 11, 2014, MCPD held a press conference to name Lloyd Welch as a “person of interest” in the case. An inmate in prison with Welch then told officials he had heard Welch talk about burying the sisters on a family property in Virginia.
At the same time, investigators found out Richard Welch and Thomas Welch had talked on the phone and in person for several hours on the day of the press conference and gave investigators conflicting reports to explain the meetings.
Since the press conference, investigators also discovered Richard and his wife, Patricia, made many trips to Thaxton and questioned relatives about what information they have given to investigators, according to the police documents.
On Sept. 10, 2014, investigators found the Welch’s connection to land and property on Taylor Mountain in Thaxton and on Sept. 11 got permission to search the property and a clearing with approximately 30 graves, only one of which had a headstone.
“Members of the family, the current property owner, and Paul Amos, who has lived across the street from the property for over 40 years, were interviewed regarding who is buried in the unmarked plots and each person gave conflicting statements,” Smith wrote in the documents. “On Sept. 12, 2014, investigators contacted Dollie Estep, the niece of Richard Welch who resides in Thaxton, Virginia and advised her that the property at 3417 Taylor Mountain Road was being secured and considered a crime scene.”