BEDFORD, Va. – Two years after being named a “person of interest” in the abduction and murders of the Lyon sisters, the uncle of the man convicted of their deaths is no longer under the microscope, prosecutors said Tuesday.
“With the intensive investigations that have taken place, I’m no longer comfortable calling any other individual a person of interest,” Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Wes Nance said.
Two years ago, Nance’s predecessor Randy Krantz and Sheriff Mike Brown said Lloyd Lee Welch had told detectives that his uncle, Richard Allen Welch, sexually assaulted one of the Lyon sisters, in Richard Welch’s home.
Richard Welch, of Hyattsville, has never been charged, and his daughter has maintained that her father did nothing wrong.
Twelve-year-old Sheila and 10-year-old Katherine Lyon disappeared from Wheaton Plaza in 1975. Investigators believe that Lloyd Lee Welch abducted the girls, killed them and then burned their remains on Welch family property in remote Bedford County, Virginia.
Lloyd Lee Welch pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree felony murder in the Lyon sisters’ deaths Tuesday. He acknowledged abducting the girls and was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
“Lloyd Lee Welch has identified a bunch of different individuals, and that cast of characters has changed over time,” Nance said. Lloyd Welch’s narrative of what happened to the Lyon sisters changed substantially during 13 interviews he’s done with detectives since 2014.
“Richard was a constant in what Lloyd was telling us. Other people were moving in and out of the story, but Richard was a constant,” Nance said.
However, despite trying to corroborate what Lloyd Lee Welch, a convicted sex offender, said about his uncle’s involvement, investigators found nothing beyond words that pointed to his uncle.
“So, while Lloyd was trying to help us, his story kept changing, which goes to his credibility,” Nance said. “After a while you start thinking what he was saying may be suspect.”
Richard Welch’s attorney, Carter Garrett said that he was notified by Nance several weeks ago that his client was no longer considered a person of interest. At the time, a gag order was in place so Garrett did not make the information public.
With the cloud of child sex abuse and potentially murder hanging over his client’s head, Garrett said prosecutors were obliged to fully investigate information Lloyd Lee Welch provided.
“The only person who can be held accountable is Lloyd Lee Welch,” said Garrett. “And I don’t think Lloyd Welch has any assets we can go after.”
Contacted by WTOP, Patricia Ann Welch said her father has wanted to move on for years. “He just wanted to be cleared — he had nothing to do with it.”
“I’m just happy this is over,” she said.
In a 2016 interview Patricia Ann Welch said she believed her cousin Lloyd killed the girls, and was trying to drag a family member down with him.
Richard Welch, now in his 70s, has kept a low profile since 2015, when he was publicly identified.
“He doesn’t want to do an interview,” Garrett said. “He and his wife just want to go back to their quiet life before they became the center of this story.”