Prosecutors outline pattern of abuse by man charged in Lyon sisters case

WASHINGTON — Ten women are willing to testify that they were attacked or nearly kidnapped by a man now charged with the murder of two Montgomery County sisters who disappeared in 1975.

Investigators believe Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. attempted to abduct several 12-year-old girls at Wheaton Plaza Mall about the same time that Katherine and Sheila Lyon disappeared after visiting the same shopping center, according to court records filed last week.

Welch is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in Bedford County, Virginia, for the deaths of the Lyon sisters, who were last seen March 25, 1975. The sisters were seen walking on a street after spending time at the mall.

Katherine was 10 and Sheila was 12 when they disappeared. Their remains have never been found.

The court filing submitted by Bedford County prosecutor Wes Nance details incidents such as rape, beatings and assault at knifepoint, which date from 1973 to 1997, allegedly at the hands of Welch.

A total of 11 women or girls were involved in the cases outlined in the court filing. One has since died, but the others are willing to testify against Welch, according to prosecutors.

Their testimony and the information detailed in the document could only be introduced during a sentencing hearing should Welch be convicted of capital murder.

The document outlines 14 incidents of criminal behavior by Welch, and shows the scope of evidence against him.

A woman now in her 50s told prosecutors that Welch approached her when she was 12 outside a record store in the mall. Welch told her he was an undercover police officer and he had just observed her brother steal a transistor radio from the record store.

“The defendant told her that she needed to come with him toward the parking lot to discuss the issue and that he wasn’t looking to get anyone in trouble,” Nance wrote in the filing, dated Feb. 6.

As a 12-year-old, the woman told Welch she needed to get her mother. “The defendant responded that it wasn’t necessary and that they could work things out between the two of them,” prosecutors write.

The girl called for her brothers, who came running. She patted down her brother to demonstrate he hadn’t stolen anything, and when she turned around, Welch was gone.

Welch pleaded guilty in 1994 to abusing a girl in South Carolina, and in 1997 to abusing a girl in Delaware. He was scheduled to be released in 2026, at age 69, but is now in a Virginia jail awaiting trial.

According to Bedford prosecutors, two women would each testify at a sentencing hearing that in the spring of 1975 they got into Welch’s motor vehicle near Wheaton Plaza.

“Sensing danger, she attempted to exit the vehicle, however the door handles were inoperative and she was forced to roll down the windows to escape and avoid abduction,” according to the filing.

Other women have told prosecutors they were raped, and otherwise abused at knifepoint by Welch.

Ten years after the Lyon sisters disappeared, Welch and a girlfriend were living in a North Carolina trailer park. He allegedly started a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl who lived in the park. After getting caught, Welch allegedly beat the girl.

Around the same time, Welch got his girlfriend pregnant. According to prosecutors, “in a fit of rage, the defendant kicked (the woman) in the stomach, sending her into premature labor.”

The most recent incidents, from July 1997, involve a 10-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually abused by Welch while he lived with the girl’s mother.

Immunity agreement

In other rulings, the Bedford County Judge James Updike ruled Welch violated an immunity agreement he’d signed with Montgomery County, Maryland, prosecutors.

Lawyers for Welch had argued the agreement in Maryland should not be binding in Virginia.

The four-decade search for the girls expanded to Virginia in 2014, when new evidence and testimony suggested that Welch brought the bodies of the Lyon sisters to property owned by his relatives in remote Bedford County, Virginia, and burned them.

Updike ruled last month that Welch breached the agreement by telling conflicting stories about what happened to the girls to investigators.

If convicted, Welch could be sentenced to death. His Virginia trial is set to begin April 18.

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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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