EXCLUSIVE: Hyattsville man may hold key to Lyon sisters’ disappearance; Police search family home, property for clues in 1975 case
BY SUSIE CURRIE AND REBECCA BENNETT — Months after his nephew was implicated in one of Washington’s most notorious cold cases, a Hyattsville man who police say worked in Wheaton as a security guard in the 1970s has been targeted as well.
On October 2, in a joint press conference between authorities in Montgomery County, Md. and Bedford County, Va., police named Richard Allen Welch Sr. a “person of interest” in the disappearance of Sheila and Katherine Lyon nearly 40 years ago.
The sisters, ages 12 and 10, were last seen on March 25, 1975, walking the half-mile between Wheaton Plaza and their home. The missing girls sparked a high-profile, wide-ranging investigation.
New developments in the case came February, when the FBI and Montgomery County Police named Lloyd Lee Welch, 57, a person of interest. Witnesses said they saw Lloyd talking to the young girls at the mall. A convicted sex offender who grew up in Hyattsville, Lloyd has been incarcerated in Delaware since 1997 after pleading guilty to abusing his girlfriend’s 10-year-old daughter. He is scheduled for release in 2026.
Now police suspect that his uncle, Richard Welch, said to be in his 70s, was working as a security guard in or near the mall when the girls disappeared.
“We encourage people with any information regarding Mr. Welch’s employment at that time to contact law enforcement as soon as possible,” said Russ Hamill, assistant chief of Montgomery County Police.
The news came two weeks after investigators searched Richard and Patricia Welch’s home in the 4900 block of 41st Place. On September 18, Hyattsville police officers closed the normally quiet street to traffic as Montgomery County detectives searched the single-story white clapboard house, telling bystanders only that the activity was related to a cold case.
One neighbor said that during the raid, a woman claiming to be the daughter of one of the Welches approached her and said, “We’re not bad people. Don’t think we’re bad people.”
The Welches sat on a swing in the front yard as the law enforcement officials, most in plainclothes, streamed in and out of the house. The couple had no comment for reporters, and efforts to reach them afterwards were unsuccessful.
A much broader search occurred on Taylor’s Mountain in Thaxton, Va., where property records show that Richard and other Welch family members have owned land. Officers from both jurisdictions scoured the area for days in September and believe they are close to solving the case.
There is “a good chance the girls are on this mountain,” said Hamill.
At a press conference the day before the Hyattsville search, Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz said, “We know who was responsible. Each and every one of them.”
Capt. Darren Francke, director of the Montgomery County Police Department’s major crimes division, added that the list of those being investigated “includes Lloyd Welch and family members.” Three generations of the family lived in Hyattsville at the time, with other branches of the family in Delaware, Virginia and Tennessee.
Lloyd’s stepmother, Alyene Welch, lives in Tennessee. Reached by telephone, she told the HL&T, “My husband [Lloyd Sr.] drank a lot and we had fights a lot, policemen done come to my door a lot and that’s not no more than any other family.”
On October 3, a multijurisdictional grand jury started deliberations in Bedford, Va., to determine what charges, if any, will be filed.
At the time the Lyon sisters disappeared, Lloyd Lee Welch was 18 and living in the 4700 block of Baltimore Avenue. Neighbor Connie Gasch said she didn’t know him — “I don’t know that the family had much interaction with anybody” — but recalls seeing him “walk up and down the street on quite a few occasions … It seems like he did not have a car or if he did he didn’t use it much.”
When Lloyd was named a person of interest, the FBI released a list of his known whereabouts from the time of the disappearance to his incarceration in 1997 in hopes that other victims might come forward.
“I believe we’ll get to the bottom of where many crimes occurred by the end of the investigation,” said Hamill at the October 2 press conference. “… The two little girls are the main victims, but there’s many other victims involved here.”
Authorities have asked that anyone with information about either Lloyd or Richard Welch to call the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Division at 240.773.5070.
With reporting by Chris Currie and Caroline Selle