March 25, 1975
Sisters Sheila (12) and Katherine (10) Lyon disappear from a mall while looking at Easter decorations
On March 25, the sisters walked alone to a nearby mall around 11 a.m. or noon, with instructions from their mother to return home by 4 p.m. When the girls had not returned by 7, the police were called. Though an investigation was immediately launched, no leads produced meaningful information and the case grew cold.
Decades later, in 2013, a cold case investigations team re-examined the Lyon case. Investigators began to suspect Lloyd Lee Welch, who was incarcerated in Delaware for an unrelated sexual assault of a child and had previous convictions of assaults on children. Welch, who was 18 at the time of the Lyon sisters’ disappearances, had been questioned along with many others in the area of the mall, and had told police he had seen the girls talking to men. It was because Welch was known to be in the area at the time of the disappearances, and had a history of attacking children the same age group as the Lyon sisters, that he was investigated further.
Welch told the cold case investigators several conflicting stories over 21 months of questioning until he eventually settled on one story: he had been involved in the kidnapping and the disposal of the Lyon sisters’ bodies but had not killed them. According to Welch, he had watched a relative abuse and kill one of the girls, then witnessed his father and his uncle dismember a body. Welch claimed he was threatened by his family and forced to clean the body parts, move them to a family farm in a rural area of Virginia, and put the pieces in a fire. Welch’s father died in 1998 and therefore could not be questioned regarding Welch’s accusations, and his uncle has denied the claims.
Welch, while he denied killing the sisters, was held accountable for their deaths “in the commission of abduction with intent to defile.” He pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to 48 years in prison. As he was already serving time and was 60 years old at the time of his sentencing, it is likely he will die in prison.
Shiela (left) and Katherine (right)
Kolker, Robert. “The Cracking of a Cold, Cold Case.” The New York Times. April 2, 2019. Accessed: March 25, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/02/books/review/last-stone-mark-bowden.html
Morse, Dan. “It wasn’t just the Lyon sisters he harmed: Lloyd Welch pleads guilty in two child sex assaults.” The News & Advance. September 21, 2017. Accessed: March 25, 2020. https://www.newsadvance.com/news/local/it-wasn-t-just-the-lyon-sisters-he-harmed-lloyd/article_faca21fa-9ef5-11e7-b4cf-97a3cdb56f46.html
“Horrifying confession 40 years after Lyon sisters ‘raped and burned’.” New Zealand Herald. September 13, 2017. Accessed: March 25, 2020. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11921665 (image source)
“Lyon Girls Search Is Intensified.” The Evening Sun [Baltimore, Maryland]. May 23, 1975
“Search for two girls near Wheaton fruitless.” The Sun [Baltimore, Maryland]. March 29, 1975