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Lyon Sisters Cold Case: Carnival Ride Operator Named Person of Interest

A convicted sex offender may be connected to the disappearance of young sisters from Wheaton in 1975, Montgomery County police and the FBI said.

Lloyd Lee Welch, left, with his girlfriend Helen; at right, Welch in 1977, when he was arrested for a residential burglary near Wheaton Plaza. (Credit: Montgomery County Police)
Lloyd Lee Welch, left, with his girlfriend Helen; at right, Welch in 1977, when he was arrested for a residential burglary near Wheaton Plaza. (Credit: Montgomery County Police)
Montgomery County police identified a person of interest Tuesday in a cold case involving two young sisters who disappeared more than 30 years ago from the Wheaton mall area.

Police said authorities are questioning Lloyd Lee Welch, 57, also known as "Michael Welch," in connection with the kidnapping of the Lyon sisters on March 25, 1975.

On the day of their disappearance, Sheila Lyon, 12, and her sister, Katherine, 10, had gone to Wheaton Plaza (now known as the Westfield Wheaton Mall), police said.

Their mother told them to be home by 4 p.m. but they never returned, according to police.

"Sheila and Katherine were last seen just after 2 p.m., walking between Wheaton Plaza and their home, only half a mile away," police said. "They disappeared without a trace, and have not been heard from since."

Their older brother, Jay, was the last person to see the sisters, who were outside the Orange Bowl restaurant, The Washington Post reported.

Montgomery County Police said that Welch was "noticed paying attention to the sisters the afternoon they disappeared," in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Since 1997, Welch has been in a Delaware prison, and he is a convicted sex offender, police said. He was charged with sex offenses against young girls in several states, according to police, who said there may be additional victims who have not yet come forward.

Welch traveled the United States "extensively" from the 1970s to mid-1990s, police said, noting he was a carnival ride operator whose job often had him working near malls.

Investigators declined to say how they connected Welch to the case but are asking for the public's help in putting the pieces together.

“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," Steve Vogt, special agent in charge of the FBI in Maryland, said in a prepared statement.

“We have all been haunted by the disappearance of the Lyon sisters," Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said. "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."

Anyone who may have encountered Welch may call investigators at 1-800-CALL-FBI or can submit a tip online.

Related: Police Want to Question Sex Offender in 1975 Disappearance of Sisters

Jack Galvin February 12, 2014 at 08:20 AM
I've met John Lyons (Father) several times...One HECK of a good GUY....Such a sad STORY ....I'll never forget....
Bryan Harz February 12, 2014 at 09:48 AM
I don't know if I could go on if my child disappeared like that. Very sad. Too bad Welch is so deranged he has no idea or could care less that he broke up a wonderful family. I feel so sorry for the Lyons family and hope they can feel a little better knowing the perpetrator is caught...and I hope Welch simply hides his face and weeps for an eternity.
dan ricci February 12, 2014 at 11:57 AM
The article did not say that the perpetrator was caught. It only named someone as a "person of interest" which is not even a legal standard.
Marian DeRossett February 12, 2014 at 12:09 PM
I am from Maryland and work with Missing persons cases and have been to a meeting where the parents of these girls were and such nice people.This case holds dear to my heart and always prayed someone will answer to this.I hope this guy never gets out of prison for all he has done to many.I pray they will be found and the family gets answers they so need sending prayers to the family and will never forget
Bryan Harz February 12, 2014 at 12:47 PM
Fair enough Dan, but give it time. I'm not going to argue with you about wording on this sensitive topic.
Paula Reitan February 12, 2014 at 09:35 PM
WOW! This is very sad. The world has changed so much in the past 30 years. I doubt anyone would allow a 10 and 12 year old go to a mall by themselves anymore, in large part because their are so many other people out there praying on our children. VERY SAD! I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, where it is still safe, I fear for the day people there start having to lock their doors too.
Sue Keller February 13, 2014 at 06:06 PM
This is a very sad case.... I don't think kids have ever been truly "safe". Remember all those kids who ran away to join the circus or some other tale? Those kids were probably exploited or kidnapped or harmed, too.
anonymous2833 February 16, 2014 at 08:43 AM
Sometimes a person sees/senses something that matters, but that person is told at the time they must have it wrong or part of it wrong. Or it collides with other bad memories. Or maybe the person didn't quite share everything, because it was profoundly humiliating. And/or to recognize it for what it really was is too scary. So the person forces the memory away until someone or something pushes or pulls it back. But Then it's a struggle with the memory because it usually is an 'alone' kind. And to get clarity requires talking to other people who don't want to remember that time either...or it's better for the collective group if they don't remember. But, on some level the person also realizes it was important to keep...
ROBERT SCHROEDER February 16, 2014 at 08:44 AM
Marian, they have been in my prayers since they been missing, I pray 1 day they do come back home here on earth, It sounds like these 3 girls that were kidnapped & 1 got raped [hope not]. I been going to the mall since 1981. But heard about it on the news one time. My question is why do people do sex crimes?
Marian DeRossett February 16, 2014 at 09:44 AM
Hi Robert and in the case of children it is usually child pedophiles who commit this and I believe most of them cannot be cured and whether it is because they were molested themselves or they are sick just like Serial killers who kill many and also cannot be cured and have to be caught to stop it.In Adult cases rape is usually a power over the victim not for sex itself.These people who commit these crimes are sick people and most cannot stop what they do.So many are missing from decades ago and as I work on all States I post them on Facebook from Maryland also as it is my home State and familiar with the missing there and this case is in my heart for the Lyon family pray for answers for them and all the families.I am currently living in North Carolina but my heart is in Maryland where my family lives.I hope this help answer for you.I am no expert on this but this is what I found to be true in a lot of cases as I do read them also.Take care Robert
ROBERT SCHROEDER February 16, 2014 at 09:52 AM
You too & b safe wherever you go & thanks & you take care also & God bless you & your families.

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