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Cold case heats up: Suspect named in 1975 disappearance of 2 young sisters

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On March 25, 1975, two young sisters, Katherine Lyon, 10, and Sheila Lyon, 12, went to a shopping mall in Wheaton, Md. They enjoyed seeing an Easter exhibit, walked throughout the mall as young kids do, did some window shopping, and were seen by their older brother having pizza. But that’s the last time anyone ever saw the two Lyon girls.

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On Feb. 12, almost 40 years after they disappeared, Newser reported that police in Montgomery County “say they think they know who killed them and are asking the public for help.”

Earlier this week, authorities identified a former drifter and carnival ride operator, Lloyd Lee Welch, as their “person of interest” in this case. The now 57-year-old Welch has been incarcerated in a Del. prison since 1997 on several child sex offense charges. Welch was at the mall the day the girls went missing.

Police believe he was at the Wheaton Plaza mall, near Bethesda, the day the sisters disappeared, and say he was "observed paying attention" to the girls and may have been following them. They were last seen walking home.

Unfortunately, authorities also say they don’t have enough evidence to charge Welch with the girls’ disappearance, according to The Washington Post.

“We need everyone who may know something to come forward,” Steve Vogt, special agent in charge of the FBI in Maryland, said Tuesday. “It might be enough to put the pieces of this puzzle together.”

After hearing about Welch’s alleged involvement in the missing Lyon sister case, the Lyon family released a statement saying that they’d be “grateful for any information the public can provide to help bring this story to its conclusion.”

“March 25th will mark 39 years since Kate and Sheila were taken from our family,” they said.

“Throughout these years our hopes for a resolution of this mystery have been sustained by the support and efforts of countless members of law enforcement, the news media, and the community. The fact that so many people still care about this case means a great deal to us.”

Welch was 18-years-old in 1975. Although police were aware of his existence back then, it’s not clear whether he was ever considered a suspect in the case. But after reviewing the sisters’ case files last year, Assistant Montgomery Police Chief Russ Hamill said that “He jumped out at us in the past couple of months.”

Old case file documents show that a young girl who was with the Lyon sisters that afternoon had described a man who followed the three of them that day. Police developed a sketch partly based on that description, they said. It resembles a mug shot taken of Welch a few years later — in 1977 — when he was arrested in a burglary case in Montgomery.

“We have all been haunted by the disappearance of the Lyon sisters. Even though so much time has passed, we have not forgotten that those young girls deserve justice, and their family deserves closure. We’re hoping one of you has information that will help us provide both,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger.

In an effort to seek out other victims and to elicit additional information on this case, the FBI shared the following timeline of Welch’s known whereabouts.

Date and Location

January 9, 1974 Austin, Texas

March 25, 1975 Wheaton Plaza in Wheaton, Maryland

April 1, 1975 - Address of 4714 Baltimore Avenue in Hyattsville, Maryland, provided to law enforcement

April 9, 1977 - Takoma Park, Maryland

November 1977 - Address of 1825 Main St. in Orlando, Florida, provided to law enforcement

November 24, 1977 - Montgomery County, Maryland

March 13, 1980 - North Miami Beach, Florida

September 15, 1981 - Hyattsville, Maryland

April 15, 1982 to September 11, 1984 - Incarcerated (Maryland)

March 18, 1987 - Los Angeles, California

April 27, 1987 - Sioux City, Iowa

January 13, 1988 - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

February 4, 1988 - Sioux City, Iowa

December 20, 1988 - Horry County, South Carolina

March 17, 1989 - Horry County, South Carolina

September 1992 - Lockhart, South Carolina

November 16, 1992 - Clover, South Carolina

May 19, 1993 - Union County, South Carolina

May 31, 1994 - Union County, South Carolina

June 13, 1994 - Baltimore, Maryland

June 21, 1994 - Address of Road 3, Box 86 in Bedford, Pennsylvania, provided to law enforcement

July 13, 1994 - Address of 1800 Elmerton Avenue in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, provided for sex offender registry

1995 - Prince William County, Virginia

June 1996 - Address of 2242 Sussex Court in Woodbridge, Virginia, provided to law enforcement

March 1997 - New Castle County, Delaware

July 1997 to Present - Incarcerated (Delaware)

According to the FBI, Welch is also believed to have spent time in New York, but the related dates are unknown.

Anyone with any information in the case is asked to contact the authorities. Call 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit tips.fbi.gov.

For more on the story, see the video accompanying this article.

Also see:

Fla. man executed for kidnapping, rape, murder of 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce

Mother directs police to missing 2-year-old daughter’s shallow grave

Heartbroken mom of baby thrown from NYC skyscraper was nervous about dad’s visit

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