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Katherine departed from her family's residence on Plyers Mill Road in Kensington, Maryland on March 25, 1975 with her older sister
The girls' fifteen-year-old brother saw them inside The Orange Bowl Restaurant eating pizza together at approximately 2:00 p.m. the day they vanished. A friend stated that the girls were walking westward down Drumm Avenue near Devon Street between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. This would have been one of the most direct routes to their home on Plyers Mill Road from the mall and was the final confirmed sighting of the sisters. Their mother had instructed Sheila and Katherine to return to the residence by 4:00 p.m. When they did not arrive by 7:00 p.m. authorities were summoned and an extensive search was conducted. No evidence of the Lyon sisters' whereabouts could be located.
Several extortion-type phone calls were made to the Lyon family in the weeks following the girls' disappearances. The most serious call came from an unidentified male on April 4, 1975. The individual demanded that their father leave a briefcase with $10,000 inside an Annapolis, Maryland courthouse restroom. The money was left as per the instructions, but was never claimed. The caller later maintained that police had surrounded the courthouse and he could not retrieve the ransom. Before the money would be offered to the man again, he was required to show evidence of the Lyon sisters in his custody. The caller said he would be in touch with the family, but never called back.
In 2014, authorities named Lloyd Lee Michael Welch Jr. and Richard Allen Welch, Sr. as the prime suspects in the sisters' cases. Lloyd, who is also known as Michael Lee Welch, is Richard's nephew. He was 18 years old in 1975. Photos of the men, both of whom are still alive, are posted below this case summary. Lloyd has a record numerous criminal offenses, includng sex offenses against young girls in South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware. Since 1997 he's been serving a 30-year sentence in a Delaware prison. He traveled throughout the United States from the 1970s to the 1990s and worked for a traveling carnival. He was at the Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center the day Katherine and Sheila went missing, and was observed watching them. Investigators believe Richard worked as a security guard at the area.
Lloyd told authorities he'd left the mall with Katherine and Sheila the day of their disappearances, and later saw his uncle sexually assaulting one of the them in the basement of his father's home in Hyattsville, Maryland. He told police his uncle and father dismembered the girls' bodies after they were killed, and the remains were taken to Taylor Mountain, 200 miles from their home, and burned. Richard apparently owned property on the mountain in the 1970s, and so did his sister. A grand jury investigation into the children's disappearances began in 2014. Richard's wife, Patricia, testified, and authorities believe she lied on the stand; she was subsequently charged with perjury.
Authorities stated there was a "conspiracy" in the Lyon sisters' presumed deaths and more people besides Lloyd were involved, but they stated the other suspects were either dead or didn't have enough evidence against them for charges. Lloyd's father died in 1998, and Richard has denied any involvement in Katherine and Sheila's cases. Police found human DNA and what they suspect was human blood in the basement of Lloyd's father's former home in Hyattsville, but the sample was too degraded to make a match against anyone. Lloyd's attorneys stated their client has limited intellectual abilities and was taken advantage of by older adults when he helped abduct Katherine and Sheila.
Active searches for the Lyon sisters' bodies commenced in 2014, but nothing has been uncovered. Foul play is suspected in their cases due to the circumstances involved.
Left: Lloyd Lee "Michael" Welch in 1977;
Right: Lloyd Lee "Michael" Welch, approximate date 2014
Left: Richard Welch, approximate date 1975;
Right: Richard Welch, approximate date 2014
America's Most Missing Persons
The Prince William Daily Journal
The Washington Post