NBC Washington contributed to this report – WHEATON, MD (WSLS 10) - Search warrants revealed what led investigators to charge convicted sex offender Lloyd Welch with two counts of first-degree murder in the case of the missing Lyon sisters.
Maryland sisters Katherine and Shelia Lyon, 12- and 10-years-old at the time, disappeared from a Maryland shopping mall 40 years ago. On Wednesday, investigators revealed charges related to their disappearance and search warrants show what led to those charges.
According to search warrants, Henry Parker, a relative of Welch, told investigators he met Lloyd Welch at a property on Taylor's Mountain Road in 1975. Parker said he helped Lloyd take two army style duffle bags from the trunk of a car.
Parker also said the bags weighed about 60 to 70 pounds and smelled like "death." According to the search warrants, Parker said the bags were covered in red stains and both bags were thrown onto a fire. The warrants show Parker told investigators these details in December, 2014.
Warrants also showed statements from an inmate housed in the same cell block as Lloyd Welch. The inmate reported to prison officials that Lloyd Welch made comments about kidnapping the girls and burying them on family property in Virginia.
The warrants showed witness testimony regarding a large fire at 3417/3409 Taylor's Mountain Road back in 1975. The witness noted the memory being clear because the fire burned for several days and smelled like "burning flesh."
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Investigators Announce the Charges
Wednesday's news was a big development in a case that terrified many families in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., leading families to keep their children inside and supervise them every time they went out. Police say they have spent about 16,000 hours of investigation into the Lyon sisters' case.
Three generations of the Lyon family were present at the news conference.
"If you have anyone in Montgomery County, they can tell you a personal story about how they or their family was impacted," said Montgomery County Police chief J. Thomas Manger Chief at the press conference.
More on the disappearance and Lloyd Lee Welch -->
Lloyd Lee Welch
Welch has long been a person of interest in the disappearance of 12-year-old Katherine Lyon and 10-year-old Shelia Lyon, who were last seen at a Maryland shopping mall on March 25, 1975.
Welch is in custody in Delaware after he pleaded guilty to sex abuse charges in Delaware and South Carolina.
Welch was indicted by a grand jury in Bedford County, Virginia, where many law enforcement agencies have been searching Taylor Mountain for any evidence linked to the girls. That search area included land that had been owned by Welch's family.
Authorities never said whether they located anything in the search.
Welch is originally from the D.C. area and was known to hitchhike throughout the region. Between the 1970s and the mid-1990s, he traveled extensively through the United States while working for a carnival company with his girlfriend, Helen Craver, police said.
His uncle, Richard Welch, was named a person of interest in October. Authorities believe he was a security guard in the Wheaton area at the time of the sisters' disappearance and that the family owned property in Bedford County, said Montgomery County Police Chief Russ Hamill last October.
Police have also charged 65-year-old Patricia Jean Welch of Hyattsville, Maryland -- Richard Welch's wife -- of perjury in the case for lying to a grand jury. Late last year, the Bedford County Sheriff's Office requested the public's help in identifying a late 1960s or early 1970s vintage station wagon that was "associated with the crime."
No further description of the station wagon was given, but the sheriff's office said it "may have been hidden in, or removed from, a barn, shed or outbuilding."
On March 25, 1975, the Lyon sisters had planned a day at Wheaton Plaza, now known as Westfield Wheaton Mall. They were on spring break, and wanted to get pizza for lunch and see the Easter decorations at the shopping center.
With less than $4, they left their home in Kensington, Maryland, and walked the half-mile or so to Wheaton Plaza. There, a friend saw the girls outside the Orange Bowl restaurant with an older man who had a tape recorder and a briefcase, according to news and missing persons reports.
The girls were later spotted walking home, but by their 4 p.m. curfew, they hadn't arrived. By 7 p.m. that night, police had been called. Later, a composite sketch was distributed of the man who seen talking to them. Tips flowed in, but to no avail.
Sheila and Katherine were never seen again.
The Washington Post reported that for the last ten months, a grand jury had been meeting in secret in Bedford County to determine whether there is enough evidence to indict people.