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'75 abduction case in Maryland leads investigators to Bedford County

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By Tom Wilmoth

The 1975 abduction and murder case of two sisters in Montgomery County, Maryland, has led investigators to the Taylor Mountain area of Bedford County.

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Investigators with the Montgomery County (MD) Police Department are “zeroing in” on who they believe is responsible for taking the two girls, Sheila and Katherine Lyon, from a popular suburban Washington D.C. shopping center in 1975.

“My investigators have been working hard on every piece of information in the case file,” stated Montgomery County Police Captain Darren Francke. “That is what led us down here.”

The two sisters, 10 and 12 years old, disappeared on March 25, 1975, and were never heard from or seen again. Francke said investigators have repeatedly opened up the case and “want to see this terrible story come to an end.”

Investigators say Lloyd Lee Welch, 57, also known as Michael Welch, was noticed paying attention to the sisters the afternoon they disappeared. The sisters were last seen just after 2 p.m., walking between Wheaton Plaza (now Westfield Wheaton) and their home, only half a mile away. Their mother told them to be home by 4 p.m., but they never returned.

Welch, who is now incarcerated, has been named as a person of interest in the case. The property being searched in Bedford County was once owned by Welch's aunt, according to reports.

“We believe we have finally zeroed in on what we need to to find the truth of what happened to these girls,” Francke said Wednesday.

He said investigators have “ been relentless in pursuing leads.”

“Those leads have led us to Bedford,” he added.

Investigators from Maryland met with representatives of the Bedford County Sheriff's Office and the Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office last week. He said the hope is that the investigation taking place on Taylor's Mountain “will ultimately hold those that harmed those girls responsible in a court of law.”

That includes Lloyd Welch and family members, he said.

“We are working tirelessly,” Francke said of the combined effort. He praised the assistance of the joint task force that includes the BCSO, the Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and the Virginia State Police.

“The support has been fantastic,” Francke said. “We are very confident we are getting to the point we need to in this investigation to hold people accountable.”

He expects his investigators to remain in this area through the weekend.

“We will find out the entire truth; we know a lot already,” Francke said. “We will bring them to justice.”

Francke said investigators have brought a lot of resources to the area, including cadaver dogs.

“We are doing a thorough job as far as building our case (against Welch),” he said.

He said, in addition to Francke, other persons of interest in the case, in addition to Welch, are located in several areas.

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown said, after being briefed on the investigation, the combined operation for the investigation was formulated between the different departments participating.

Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Krantz said investigators are confident they are getting closer “to bring to justice each of those persons responsible” for the abduction and slaying of the Lyon sisters.

“We know who was responsible, each and every one of them,” Krantz said. “We're all committed to working as long and as hard as necessary (on the case).”

He said for those with knowledge of the case “telling the truth is imperative.”

Welch, a convicted sex offender, has been in prison in Delaware since 1997.  He traveled extensively throughout the U.S. from the '70s through the mid-'90s. 

Welch worked as a ride operator for a carnival company, often set up at malls.  He was arrested in several states, charged with sexual offenses against young girls.  There may be victims who have not come forward, a news release from the FBI stated in February.

“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,” stated Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger in that news release.

“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 Maryland.