Four decades after Katherine and Sheila Lyon vanished while walking to a Maryland mall, a convicted sex offender currently behind bars for rape has been charged in the young sisters’ deaths, officials said Wednesday.
A Virginia grand jury last week indicted Lloyd Lee Michael Welch Jr. on charges of first-degree felony murder during an abduction with attempt to defile in the deaths of Katherine and Sheila Lyon, said Bedford County commonwealth’s attorney Randy Krantz.
The sisters, ages 10 and 12, disappeared after a trip to a Maryland mall in March 1975.
That day, the pair walked to the Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center in Maryland to see an Easter exhibit and grab a slice of pizza from the mall. They haven’t been seen since.
The day they disappeared, the sisters were supposed to be home by 4 p.m. Their mother called authorities when they didn’t return, and a major search ensued, according to the Charley Project, a website that profiles thousands of missing people, mainly from the United States.
Authorities acquired more than 2,000 leads throughout the decades, never leading to any physical evidence.
The most promising lead was a witness in Virginia who reported seeing two girls resembling the victims, bound and gagged in the back of station wagon. Unable to get the entire license plate number, police later deemed the report “questionable.”
The case turned a corner in 2014 when authorities named Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. and his uncle Richard Allen Welch Sr. prime suspects in the case.
A convicted sex offender who molested young girls in South Carolina, Delaware and Virginia, Lloyd Welch was at the Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center the same day as the Lyon sisters. He told authorities he left the mall with the girls and later saw his uncle molesting them. Lloyd Welch, who the FBI said worked as a ride operator with a traveling carnival, claims he never saw the girls again.
Authorities are searching for the bodies.