BEDFORD, Va. - We're learning new details about the evidence the state had to prove Lloyd Welch was guilty of murder in the deaths of the Lyon sisters.
Welch pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony first-degree murder for the 1975 crime.
Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance said the state did not have any physical evidence it was planning to present in trial. The case would have relied solely on testimony from witnesses, with the most damaging evidence of all coming from Lloyd Welch himself.
Nance says it was only three years ago when the Lyon sisters' cold case was transferred to Bedford County from Maryland on evidence that their bodies may have been buried on Taylors Mountain.
"When the investigation first came to Bedford County 39 years after the incident, there was no physical evidence to speak of," said Nance.
At that time, Nance says the task of building a case against Welch seemed difficult.
"The modern crime, you very often have digital evidence, whether it's through cellphones, video surveillance footage, the body cameras that police officers have, and you have none of that now. It was only written reports," said Nance.
But Nance says years of investigating began to turn up leads.
"At the time of their abduction from the mall, we were able to find several witnesses that saw someone that they either would say definitely was Lloyd Welch, or someone who was very strongly associated with or looked very much like Lloyd Welch," said Nance.
Nance says police also scoured Taylors Mountain for clues. While no physical evidence was ever proven to be linked to the case, several witnesses were found who placed Welch in the area in 1975, but Nance says it was Welch himself, over the course of 13 separate interviews, who he believes would have sealed his own conviction.
"Ultimately, he acknowledged that he was present for one of the girl's sexual assaults, one of the girl's deaths, and then he was responsible for taking the remains of that girl down to Bedford County, up onto Taylors Mountain, and disposing of it there," said Nance.
Nance says the prosecution chose not to pursue a death penalty trial, in part to spare the family the pain, but he says for many, loose ends still remain.
"I think we're all disappointed, myself and the investigators, and the entire prosecution team, that we weren't able to provide the Lyon family with more concrete answers with the whereabouts of their childrens' remains, and whether others were involved," said Nance.
Throughout the years, Welch never admitted to killing the girls, always saying he had accomplices. That's why Nance says this case may continue.
"Knowing the individuals that I've worked with the last three years, I don't think this is the end of their investigation," said Nance.
Another interesting factor in the case is how the state was able to charge Welch with murder. Welch never admitted to killing the girls, but he did admit to abducting them. Under the law in 1975 in Virginia, because harm came to them following the abduction, that is enough to hold Welch criminally responsible. Welch is now scheduled to serve 48 years in jail in Virginia.
Copyright 2017 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.