Monday, March 10, 2014 8:55 PM
Published on: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
By Donna Broadway
GAITHERSBURG - The hunt is still on for the person responsible for one of the most notorious missing person’s cases in the history of Montgomery County.
Nearly 39 years after Katherine (10) and Sheila Lyon (12) disappeared while walking home from Wheaton Plaza, county police have identified a new person of interest.
County police say Lloyd Lee Welch, a convicted sex offender who is serving a 30-year sentence in a Delaware prison for unlawful sexual contact is the latest suspect.
In a news conference Tuesday, Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger asked for help in finding additional information and said Welch was observed at the Wheaton Plaza paying close attention to the Lyon sisters the day they disappeared.
“We have all been haunted by the disappearance of the Lyon sisters,” said Manger. “Even though so much time has passed, we have not forgotten that those young girls deserve justice, and their family deserves closure.”
Manger said Welch was a drifter. Originally born in the Washington D.C. area, he worked as a carnival ride operator and landscape artist. He traveled with his now deceased girlfriend Helen Craver and was known to stay at homeless shelters and hotels as he traveled across the country.
Welch, who was 18 in 1975, was known to hitchhike in around the D.C. area, including Wheaton and may was known to walk the railroads tracks from Kensington to Silver Spring.
Welch may have also had some connection to the area surrounding the Walter Reed Annex and the castle like church at Forest Glen Road and Seminary Road in Silver Spring. He was arrested in 1977 in Montgomery County for a burglary on Hobston St. only blocks away from Wheaton Plaza. Police say he lived or stayed in Texas, Florida, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Baltimore, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Virginia, and Delaware. Welch also worked in landscaping in Delaware and South Carolina. Welch was convicted in Virginia, Delaware, and South Carolina for sexual offenses against young girls – after the Lyon sisters disappeared.
Police are also looking for information about Craver, who also used the last name Welch, though police have declined to speak on her suspected role in the case. She died in 2009.
On March 25, 1974, Katherine and Sheila, just days before their birthdays, asked their mother if they could go to Wheaton Plaza, now Westfield Wheaton Mall, to see the Easter decorations. Their mother told them to return home by 4p.m. The sisters never came home.
According to published reports in The Sentinel, their brother last saw his sisters at the Orange Bowl restaurant in Wheaton Plaza eating pizza. Other witnesses said the pair was also seen speaking to an unidentified man who had a tape recorder. Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., the sisters were seen by a friend walking home on Drumm Avenue. According to witnesses at the time, this was the last known unconfirmed sighting of the sisters.
“Somebody theorized it may have been a possibility, but I don’t know. I met the youngster who talked to the police about it. He doesn’t go to school with the girls, but he belongs to the swim club. I guess he knows the girls from the pool,” John Lyon, the girls’ father, told the Sentinel in 1975.
The police are also looking to speak with the security guard working at Wheaton Plaza that day and other people at the mall on the day the sisters disappeared. According to Manger, the police do not have a physical description of the man, but believe he was a “captain” of security and had dealings with Welch prior to the girls’ disappearance.
“We understand we’re asking people to think back several decades to remember details they may not think matter. However, the information you provide could be vital in our search for evidence, and put to rest difficult questions for the Lyon family and for any other victims who may exist,” said Steve Vogt, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Baltimore.
The Lyon family did not speak at the news conference but released the following statement:
“March 25th will mark 39 years since Kate and Sheila were taken from our family. 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 so many people still care about this case means a great deal to us.”
Police ask anyone with information about Lloyd Lee Welch, a.k.a Michael Welch, Helen Craver, a.k.a Welch, any witnesses, and the security officers working at the mall on March 25, 1964 to call county police at 240-773-5070 or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or submit a tip online at http://tips.fbi.gov.
Jim Davis also contributed to this story.
Posted By: Betty Dembinski On: 2/13/2014
Title: Lyons Sisters
I have never forgotten these little girls. I have always prayed that someday their parents would know what happened to their children. I guess this was the first time that I ever heard about missing children. Or at least the first time I really was touched by it. Guess it was just too close to my home. (Gaithersburg)