Welch lawyers seek change of venue in Lyon sisters murder trial

BEDFORD, Va. — Attorneys for Lloyd Lee Welch are seeking a change of venue in his trial for the murders of Sheila and Katherine Lyon.

Defense lawyers filed the motion Friday afternoon, saying Welch would not receive a fair trial in Bedford County because of pretrial publicity.

Also, the girls’ parents and brothers will likely testify in the trial, and will be able to remain in the courtroom during the entire trial.

In a brief motions hearing Friday, Circuit Court Judge James Updike ruled the family of the girls who were last seen in March 1975 will be able to testify, as well as watch the rest of Welch’s trial, which is set to begin Sept. 12.

In an earlier motion, prosecutors said the girls’ parents, and brothers Jay and Joe, are expected to testify against Welch.

Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Wes Nance wrote the family members would “provide circumstantial evidence that Sheila and Katherine were the victims of a crime, but not directly implicate the defendant in that crime.”

In Friday’s hearing, with no opposition from Welch’s defense team, the judge issued the order to allow the Lyon family to remain in the courtroom.

Welch was not in the courtroom during the brief hearing.

Nance did not object to the court granting more money to the defense for its investigator, “given the complicated fact patterns” of the case.

Welch is charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder, and could receive the death penalty if convicted.

Police and prosecutors believe Welch burned the two girls’ bodies on a fire on Welch family property, eight miles from the courthouse on Taylor’s Mountain, in Thaxton, Virginia.

As WTOP reported earlier this week, a tooth recovered during searches of the property was lost while it was in the custody of the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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