BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) UPDATE
Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. has been sentenced for the murders of Katherine and Sheila Lyon in Bedford County.
Welch, 60, received two 48-year sentences for the two counts of first degree felony murder he was facing. The sentences will be served concurrently.
Katherine and Sheila Lyon, ages 10 and 12, were last seen at the Wheaton Plaza shopping center near their home in Kensington, Maryland on March 25, 1975. Family members at the time said the girls had traveled to the nearby mall to window shop.
Welch entered guilty pleas to the charges he was facing as part of an agreement between defense attorneys and prosecutors.
Welch will begin serving his 48-year sentence in approximately 2026, when he completes a sentence of several decades for a sexual assault in Delaware. Welch will be 69 years old in 2026.
Although he entered guilty pleas, Welch continued to claim Tuesday that he did not sexually assault of murder Katherine and Sheila Lyon. He also provided no additional information about what might have happened to the sisters after their 1975 disappearance.
Prosecutors indicated Tuesday that remains of the Lyon Sisters were never recovered, in spite of several forensic digs that took place on Taylor's Mountain over the past three years.
Speaking for the first time since Welch's indictment, Katherine and Sheila Lyon's father John thanked law enforcement after Tuesday's hearing. “It’s been a long time," Lyon said, standing next to Katherine and Sheila's mother, Mary, and their now-grown brothers, Joe and Jay. "We’re tired and we just want to go home.”
Tuesday marks three years to the day since Maryland detectives first joined Bedford County investigators to begin searching for evidence in the Lyon Sisters' case on Taylor's Mountain.
As part of Tuesday's agreement, Welch also pleaded guilty to an unrelated sexual assault in Prince William County, Virginia, and received an additional 12-year active sentence. That case is scheduled to be adjudicated later this week.
During Tuesday's hearing Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance indicated other people might have been involved in the death and disappearance of the Lyon sisters, but said those participants were either dead or their roles could not be proven. He remarked to reporters after Tuesday's hearing that additional charges could be filed in relation to the Lyon's case at a later time.
Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. will be in court Tuesday morning, where he's expected to enter a plea in the Lyon Sisters case.
Welch was originally supposed to go on trial September 12 at 9 a.m., but that all changed last week when Welch's request for a trial was removed.
Welch is charged with two counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Katherine and Sheila Lyon after they were abducted from a Maryland shopping mall in 1975. Witnesses who saw the girls at the mall were questioned, but for decades the murder and disappearance went unsolved.
Prosecutors believe Lloyd Lee Welch, Jr. kidnapped and later killed the girls, possibly disposing of their bodies on Taylor's Mountain in Bedford County where his family lived.
Welch was a free man until the late 90's, when he pleaded guilty to rape charges in Delaware. Before he went to prison, prosecutors believe he was involved in another crime.
Welch is currently serving a 30 year sentence for the Delaware conviction, but he's scheduled to be released on that charge in the next seven to ten years.
ORIGINAL: SEPTEMBER 7, 2017
The man charged in connection with the disappearance and death of two sisters in 1975 is expected to enter a plea to charges in Bedford County next week.
Lloyd Lee Welch, Jr. was scheduled to go on trial next week on counts of first degree felony murder for the deaths of Katherine and Sheila Lyon. Welch's online court records were changed Thursday afternoon and now indicate that his jury trial request has been withdrawn. Online records indicate Welch will enter a plea that day instead.
The Lyon sisters disappeared while visiting a Washington, DC area shopping mall in March, 1975. Welch was charged with murder in the summer of 2015 and was brought to Bedford County to face charges that fall.
A Bedford County connection in the Lyon Sisters case emerged in the fall of 2014, when investigators began looking for evidence in the case on Taylor's Mountain near Thaxton.