Court docs outline Welch’s shifting tales about fate of Lyon sisters

WASHINGTON — The man charged with killing 12-year-old Sheila and 10-year-old Katherine Lyon after abducting them from Wheaton Plaza in 1975 has told detectives contradictory stories about the girls’ fate and his role in their disappearance.

During interviews with police, Lloyd Lee Welch’s stories shifted from denying that he was involved in the girls’ kidnapping and killings, to blaming his relatives, to stating that he helped plan the kidnapping.

Welch is scheduled to go on trial this fall on charges of first-degree felony murder during the abduction with the intent to defile in Bedford County, Virginia, where investigators believe the girls’ bodies were burned on Welch family property. The remains of the Lyon sisters have never been found.

Montgomery County detectives interviewed Welch at least eight times while he was in a Delaware prison serving a 29-year sentence for child sex crimes. They were joined in some discussions by investigators from Virginia and South Carolina.

Court filings paint a vivid picture of those discussions with detectives. In addition to offering varying versions about what happened to the girls, Welch acknowledges lying to police and believes that he was “holding aces” by withholding information from investigators.

Interview: Oct. 16, 2013

In Welch’s first interview with Montgomery County detective David Davis, Welch said he observed “a minister, wearing a hat, dressed in black, put two girls in the back of a black car on March 25, 1975,” the day the girls visited Wheaton Plaza, during Easter vacation.

During the initial interview, Welch also signed an immunity agreement with the Montgomery County’s State’s Attorney’s Office, in which he said he was not involved in the abduction or murder of the Lyon girls.

Interview: Feb. 10, 2014

Welch told investigators that the younger sister, Katherine, was crying after being placed in an unnamed person’s vehicle.

During the same interview — for the first time — Welch acknowledged seeing the girls after they left the mall.

“He describes seeing the two girls at a third party’s home, apparently drugged, while two unidentified or unnamed males had sex with them. Defendant claims that he ran away when he heard a girl scream,” according to a prosecution motion.

In another interview, Welch implicated his nephew as being the one who led the girls out of the mall. But he later admitted to falsely accusing the relative “because he was angry at the relative for that person attempting to sexually assault his girlfriend.” He also apologized to investigators for lying to them.

Interview: February 2014

Welch admitted to planning with relatives to take the sisters from the mall.

“The defendant goes on to admit that Helen Craver (Welch’s girlfriend at the time) and he ‘baby-sat’ the girls during their captivity,” according to the prosecution filing.

Interview: July 2014

Welch implicates his uncle, Richard Welch for the first time.

After Welch was indicted, Bedford County prosecutors said Welch had told them his uncle, Richard Welch, had sexually assaulted one of the girls. Richard Welch was also declared a person of interest, but he has never been charged.

Interviews: May 2015

In a May 1, 2015 interview, “for the first time, Defendant claims to know where the girls were killed,” prosecutors wrote. Welch admitted to withholding information for fear of being charged, and said knowing where the girls were killed was his final “trump card.”

During an interview almost two weeks later, Welch asked for, but was not granted new immunity agreements from either Maryland or Virginia.

“Defendant admits to ‘holding aces’ or withholding information as part of his interviews,” wrote Wes Nance, the commonwealth’s attorney for Bedford County.

Later in the interview, Welch acknowledged he knew more than he had said previously.

“This statement is the first time he admits to seeing one of the girls being killed,” Nance wrote. “At this time he says it was his last ‘ace in the hole’.”

Welch remarked he was not the only person being affected by his actions, alluding to the Lyon sisters’ parents and brothers.

“I know I should be worried about the girls, the family, puttin’ it to rest and stuff like that but you also gotta look at it, I’m a survivor,” Welch told Davis, the Montgomery County detective. “I’ve lived on the street like I told you and I’ve also gotta think of me …, what’s gonna happen to me?”

Trial set for Sept. 12

Welch’s attorneys have recently asked for a change of venue, saying pretrial publicity has made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial in Bedford County. No hearing date has been set for the judge to consider a venue change.

If convicted, Welch could face the death penalty.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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