Carnival worker identified as person of interest in 1975 disappearance of Lyon sisters

Sheila and Katherine Lyon

Sheila and Katherine Lyon

A carnival ride operator with a history of sex crimes has been identified as a person of interest in the cold case disappearance of two young sisters, and police are asking the public for information to help solve the decades old mystery.

Authorities said Lloyd Lee Welch, who was 18-years-old at the time, was seen “paying attention” to 12-year-old Sheila and 10-year-old Katherine Lyon the day they vanished after visiting the Wheaton mall near their home.

Lloyd Lee Welch Jr.

Lloyd Lee Welch Jr.

Welch, who was also known as Michael Welch, recently became a person of interest after detectives learned of his criminal history, said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger. The information was gleaned after detectives looked at the case anew with a fresh set of eyes, he said.

A composite sketch drawn at the time of an unidentified man who seemed “fixated” on the girls looks similar to a mugshot of Welch, taken after he was arrested for burglary near the mall in 1977.

“These girls deserve a proper burial, frankly,” Manger said. “We have a responsibility to keep looking.”

The girls’ disappearance gripped the Washington region, leading to one of the most expansive police investigations in area history and puzzling detectives for decades.

Rendering of Welch

Sketch provided by witness who was at Wheaton Plaza on the day of the Lyon sisters disappearance. The witness stated that the person depicted in the sketch was fixated on the girls.

Welch, a convicted sex offender, has been in a Delaware prison since 1997. Welch worked as a ride operator that set up shop at malls around the country.

Welch traveled extensively throughout the U.S. from the 70’s through the mid 90’s. He was arrested in several states, charged with sexual offenses against young girls.  There may be victims who have not come forward.

Chief Manger and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Maryland Steve Vogt asked that anyone who has information about Welch to contact investigators.

“We know we are asking people to remember things that they may not want to think about,” Vogt said. “You may have tried to put it behind you, but the information you provide can lead us to information about Shelia and Katherine. They deserve justice.”

Lloyd-and-Helen_adjusted-224x300

Undated photo of Lloyd Welch and girlfriend, Helen Craver. Craver has since died, but police also are looking for anyone who knew Craver with information that might help with the case.

Manger said the department had at least 15 detectives working on the case. Investigators have identified two dozen locations where Welch lived or visited between 1974 and 1997, including Hyattsville and Takoma Park.

The girls were the daughter of John Lyon, a popular radio personality on WMAL in Bethesda.

On March 25, 1975. Sheila and Katherine told their mother they were planning to walk the half-mile from their Kensington home to the Wheaton shopping mall. They wanted to see the Easter exhibits and have lunch at the Orange Bowl restaurant.

Later in the day, the sisters were seen walking toward their house. That was the last confirmed sighting of the young sisters. They never returned home.

In a statement, the Lyon family said they would be “grateful for any information the public can provide to help bring this story to its conclusion.”

“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.”

Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or they can submit a tip online at:  http://tips.fbi.gov.

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Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Brittius.com.

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