Hyattsville resident Richard A. Welch Sr. is person of interest in 1975 disappearance of Lyon sisters
BY REBECCA BENNETT – In a joint afternoon press conference between authorities in Montgomery and Bedford Counties, police named Hyattsville resident Richard Allen Welch Sr. as a person of interest in the 1975 disappearance of Katherine (10) and Sheila (12) Lyon from the Wheaton Mall.
In Bedford County on October 2, police announced they believe Welch was employed as a security guard near the mall during the period when the girls disappeared. Authorities declined to comment further, but did say that Montgomery County and Bedford Police are working together as part of a joint task force.
Montgomery County Assistant Police Chief Russ Hamill said, “I believe we’ll get to the bottom of where many crimes occurred by the end of the investigation.”
In February, Montgomery County Police (MCPD) named the Welches’ nephew, Lloyd Lee Welch, as a person of interest in the girls’ disappearance. On September 18, a search and seizure warrant was executed for land surrounding a cemetery in Bedford County, Virginia. Authorities say some of the property may have been or is currently owned by the Welch family, even by Richard Welch, Sr., himself.
“…there’s a good chance the girls are on this mountain,” said Hamill.
According to the Hyattsville Police Department, MCPD executed a search and seizure warrant on the home of Richard and Patricia Welch on September 18 in the 4900 block of 41st Place. Property records show the couple has lived in the home on 41st Place since 1985. According to a neighborhood source, the family were tenants prior to 1985 at a now-vacant home at the corner of 42nd Place and Jefferson Street, the so-called Willoughby House.
Michael Higgins, who moved near the Welches in August 2013, was not home when their house was searched and only had good things to say about his neighbor. According to Higgins, “Dick and his wife have always been very friendly and neighborly.”
HL&T is still awaiting comment from MCPD as to how Lloyd Welch’s Hyattsville relatives were allegedly involved in the disappearance of the Lyon’s girls, as well as what was taken from the home earlier this month.
Randy Krantz, Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney, said a grand jury will convene on Friday at the county courthouse and remain in session as long as necessary.
According to the FBI:
(Lloyd Lee) Welch, a convicted sex offender, has been in prison in Delaware since 1997. He traveled extensively throughout the U.S. from the 70’s through the mid 90’s. Welch worked as a ride operator for a carnival company, often set up at malls. He was arrested in several states, charged with sexual offenses against young girls. There may be victims who have not come forward.
Sheila and Katherine were last seen just after 2:00 p.m., walking between Wheaton Plaza (now Westfield Wheaton) and their home, only half a mile away. Their mother told them to be home by 4:00 that afternoon, but they never returned. They disappeared without a trace, and have not been heard from since.
The Washington Post reports Welch had a difficult childhood, according to family members:
They said his father was driving drunk one night and crashed a car, killing his wife. Welch was a passenger in the vehicle, relatives said. After that, Welch was put in foster care, but they added that he briefly returned to live with his father and stepmother at their home in Hyattsville when he was 11 or 12. They also said he had brushes with the law. “He never stayed home,” (Darlene Hawn, 57, Welch’s half sister) said. “He was always going places and getting into trouble.”
On April 1, 1975, just one week after Katherine and Sheila went missing from Wheaton Mall, Lloyd Welch provided his address to police as 4714 Baltimore Avenue in Hyattsville.
USA Today reports that his niece, 38-year-old Debbie Roe, said “her grandmother told her Welch was sitting on a couch when news broke of the missing sisters. Welch has told Roe that he was at the shopping mall around the time the girls went missing.”
Welch’s stepmother, Edna Welch, told News4:
She recalls Welch and Craver hearing about a reward in the case and Welch saying he was going to try to collect it.
‘Lloyd and Helen were sitting on my sofa when the news broke about the girls, and they were talking about a reward for information,’ Edna Welch said. ‘Lloyd thought he was going to get something in it, I reckon, and he called in and said he knew something, but I don’t think he knew a darn thing.’
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) lists him as incarcerated in Maryland from April 15, 1982 to September 11, 1984. It is not clear what Welch was serving time for. But, while still listed as living in Hyattsville around this time, Maryland court documents show Lloyd Welch appealed charges of robbery with a deadly weapon, assault and battery, and burglary.
The Washington Post reports that according to court records, Welch pleaded guilty in 1998 to sex offenses in Delaware. His release date is set for June 2026.