Left and Center: Katherine circa, 1975
Right: Age Progressed to age 45
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: March 25, 1975
Missing From: Wheaton, Montgomery County, Maryland
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: March 29, 1964
Age: 10 years old
Height and Weight: 4’8″ and 85 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, Katherine has a birthmark on the inside of her upper thigh and her nickname is “Kate”, some agencies might spell her first name as “Kathryn”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A brightly colored red jacket with a fuzzy lining, it had no collar and had a front pocket on it, possibly wearing a size 12 undershirt, a blue floral print shirt, a pair of size 8 or 10 floral print Carter or possibly Montgomery Ward underpants, a pair of Wrangler jeans with flared bottoms, dark brown/beige argyle nylon knee-socks, a pair of beige suede Wallaby type Jumping Jack shoes with dirty beige laces, orange colored baby beads with the name “KATE” spelled on the beads in black beads with white lettering, Katherine was last known to be wearing a red hat at the time of her 1975 abduction
NCMEC Number: 793205
Details of Disappearance
Katherine was last seen with in Wheaton, Maryland on March 25th 1975. She was accompanied by her older sister, Shelia. They left their family’s residence located on Plyers Mill Road in the Kensington area and headed to the Wheaton Plaza Mall. They left their house at some point between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm.
The sisters wanted to go to the shopping center in order to view the Easter exhibits and have a pizza lunch. It was their first day of Easter vacation from school and they wanted to spend the day there. According to reports, both girls were seen at the mall outside of the Orange Bowl restaurant at approximately 1:00 pm. They were apparently seen speaking with an unidentified man.
The man was described as being middle aged; between 50 and 60 years old with graying hair. The man stood at approximately 6 feet and he was wearing a brown suit. The man was carrying a brief case with a tape recorder inside it. According to the witness, other children went up to the man and were seen talking into a microphone he had as well.
The witness was a boy who was 13 years old at the time he saw the man. He was referred to as “Jimmy” in the newspapers covering the case as his parents wanted his anonymity to remain. The boy said he was with friends near the People’s Drug store and the Orange Bowl Restaurant when they saw the girls with the man.
He recalled that the man asked the girls “Are any of you involved in sports?” Shortly after, the boy and his friends saw the man walking away towards Montgomery Wards and the girls walked towards the fountain in the other direction.
At 2:00 pm, the girls older brother, Jay, was inside the mall and reportedly said he saw his two sisters eating pizza inside of the Orange Bowl restaurant at the time. This is one of the last sightings of the sisters alive. Between 2:30 pm and 3:00 pm, a friend of the sisters stated they saw the girls walking westward Drumm Avenue near Devon Street. This would’ve been the most direct route back to their home. This was the last confirmed sighting of both girls.
Shelia and Katherine’s mother, Mary, told both girls they were expected to be back home by 4:00 pm. They never returned home as expected and neither girl was ever seen or heard from again. When the girls didn’t return home by 7:00 pm, both of their parents filed a missing persons report on them.
After their disappearance, a sketch of the man with the tape recorder was created and he was named as the primary suspect in the sisters presumed abduction. Multiple people claimed to have seen this man long before the girls even went missing. Multiple people remembered seeing this man based off the newly created sketch of him. Two parents reported that they saw the same man in the Iverson Mall two months before the girls went missing.
They said they saw the man in separate incidents at the mall. Multiple mothers called in and said their daughters had recently been bothered by a man who resembled the sketch at suburban Maryland shopping centers. The man sought by police was never identified in the case.
After the girls went missing, a huge, extensive search took place for them. They did a door to door canvas in the area and distributed posters with the girls pictures and information. Police also utilized two specially trained tracking dogs from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The dogs both picked up the scents of the girls near the Wheaton Plaza and they followed it, the trail stopped at a small gully type stream nearby. Investigators discounted the dogs. They were used against twice after that to no avail.
On May 24th 1975, a search of several wooded areas was commenced with the National Guard and over 150 guardsmen and Montgomery Police searched for the girls. The search was prompted by a psychic who was positive that the girls bodies were in the woods but the searches which lasted for 6 hours turned up no clues or evidence as to where they could be. Investigators were completely baffled by the case but continued to seek their whereabouts.
There were many false leads that came after the girls went missing. Several extortion and ransom type calls were made to Shelia and Katherines parents. The callers would always claim to have the girls in their custody and would demand a sum of money for their safe return. The most famous of these calls occurred on April 4th 1975. In the call, the man on the other end demanded that the girls father, John Lyon, leave a briefcase with $10,000 inside of a Annapolis, Maryland courthouse bathroom.
John sought police assistance and he left exactly $101 inside as directed, this was just enough to make the crime a felony. The briefcase was left in the specified area but it was never claimed. The man later called John and told him that he wasn’t able to retrieve the ransom since so many police surrounded the courthouse. John Lyon told the man he would need to hear his two daughters voices before doing anything else. The man never called again and has not been identified.
On April 7th 1975, a man who was also an executive for a large corporation in Manassas, Virginia reported that he saw two girls who matched the description of the Lyon sisters. He claimed he saw the two girls bound and gagged in the backseat of a beige Ford station wagon. The car was driven by the man wanted for questioning in the case.
The man told authorities he was on his way to work when he saw the vehicle in question. It was described as a 1966-1968 beige colored Ford station wagon. The vehicle stopped at a spotlight and he noticed a man was driving the car. He stated he recognized the man as the one in the composite sketch who was wanted for questioning in the case.
He then noticed that behind the man were two young girls. He recalled as one “raised up form the backseat”. The girl appeared to be wearing a gag made from white cloth over her mouth and face. He then saw the other girl who appeared to be tied up. The witness said the man driving the car realized he was being tailed by him and when the light signals changed, he sped away on Virginia 234.
Authorities indicted an extensive search for the vehicle and the two children inside of it but they never found it. They sent out a radio alert regarding the car and after this, several residents and one cab driver called in and said they saw the same vehicle in the vicinity of I-66going towards Virginia. The witness stated that the car had the license plate number “DMT-6**”. The last two numbers could not be read due to the bending of the plate.
Authorities attempted to identify the vehicle by running the known numbers through a checklist of about 100 tags starting with the same number. The combination was issued in Cumberland, Hagerstown, and Baltimore, Maryland in 1975. Investigators were unable to trace the vehicle. The witness recalled how the man driving looked nervous. Investigators initially felt the suspect was trapped in an area between Fairfax and Falls Church, Virginia at 8:00 pm and was “running scared”.
They believed the suspect could have possibly been hiding out in the area but investigators never located the man or the two children. They originally considered the tip as credible but have since deemed it “questionable”. Investigators have not confirmed that the two children is die of the car were the missing sisters.
There were many theories as to what happened to the two girls. Some of those theories included that they were abducted and murdered or were pirated away into white slavery. None of these rumors were ever confirmed but investigators who looked into the case were certain that both girls were kidnapped as they walked back home from the mall on the day of their disappearance.
On March 12th 1987, Montgomery Police named Fred Howard Coffey Jr. as a possible suspect in the girls case. He is also considered a suspect in several other child molestation cases and slayings. He was 41 years old in 1987. He was convicted of molesting 3 children in North Carolina where he was in custody at the time.
Investigators discovered that Coffey was in Montgomery County near the Wheaton Plaza on April 1st 1975. This was 7 days after the two girls went missing. Authorities stated that Coffey might have been the rape recorder man who was seen with the girls before their abduction. Coffey was significantly younger than the man sought for questioning in the sisters case but Coffey was known for using little gimmicks such as fishing poles and a metal detector among other gadgets to lure children.
The similarities between the cases stunned investigators and they felt Coffey may have been the man holding the tape recorder. He’s also considered a suspect in another 1975 Montgomery County case. On July 24th 1975, Kathy Beatty was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted in the woods next to the Aspen Hill K-Mart and 7-11 in Silver Springs, Maryland. She survived her injuries initially but remained unconscious for a month until she died from her injuries.
Authorities learned of Coffey in December 1986 after he was named as a possible suspect in the August 1986 slaying of an 8 year old boy, Travis Shane King, in Bristol, Virginia. Travis was suffocates to death. Investigators were unable to pinpoint Coffey’s whereabouts on the day the girls went missing but believed he would’ve been in and out of the area looking for employment at the time.
He was soon charged with the 1979 slaying of 10 year old Amanda Ray. Amanda was beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled to death. He was also considered a suspect in the death of a 12 year old girl from Charlotte, North Carolina. He soon plead guilty to molesting two boys and girls who ranged from ages 9 to 11. He was sentenced to serve 50 years in prison but was expected to serve 15 to 20 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.
Investigators also named Raymond Rudolph Mileski Sr. as a possible suspect in the disappearances is the girls. He resided in Suitland, Maryland at the time of their disappearances. He resided in the 5810 block of Suitland Road which was in close proximity to the malls where a man was reportedly approaching young girls with a microphone.
In November of 1977, Mileski murdered his teenaged son and wife in a family disagreement and also wounded his younger son. He was convicted of the killings in 1978 and was sentenced to 40 years in prison for them. Prison informants and Mileski himself stated he had information about the missing sisters. Mileski even offered to elaborate on the information if he was given more favorable prison conditions.
Based off the information, investigators searched the yard of his former residence in April of 1982 for the sisters but found nothing to indicate his involvement in the kidnappings. Mileski died in prison in 2004 but was still considered a possible suspect for many years afterwards.
Another suspect in the cases was serial rapist John Brennan Crutchley who was dumped as “the vampire rapist”. He is also considered a possible suspect in the Florida disappearance of Tammy Lynn Leppert who went missing in 1983 and the 1985 disappearance of Patti Lou Volansky. Hs was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1986 for the kidnapping and rape of a woman. He drained half of her blood and drank it afterwards.
Crutchley was also considered a suspect in the 1977 Virginia disappearance of his girlfriend, Debora Fitzjohn. He was placed under extreme scrutiny for this case since he was her boyfriend and she was last seen alive in the trailer park where he lived. He was questioned several times in relation to the case but was never charged due to lack of evidence. Fitzjohn’s skeletal remains were found in October of 1978 by a hunter.
Since Crutchley’s second family lived in Montgomery County, Maryland he was looked at in relation to the Lyon case and the Beatty case but there was evidence to prove his involvement in either case. Crutchley committed suicide in 2002 in prison. Authorities have been unable to determine whether he was involved in Leppert or Volansky’s disappearances.
There’s been speculation that the Lyon sisters case could be connected to the Florida 1976 disappearance of Dorothy Scofield. Scofield was 12 years old when she disappeared while shopping at a mall in Ocala, Florida. She was presumably abducted by a non family member. The cases were notably similar but they’ve never been linked. Dorothy remains missing.
The Lyon sisters case remained unsolved for more than 40 years until a break came in the case. A new squad of detectives were assigned to the Lyon case in 2013 and went over the files of the decades long investigation. They found a 6 page long transcript of a statement that was given to police by a man named Lloyd Lee Welch.
On April 1st 1975, Lloyd Welch contacted Montgomery authorities and claimed he witnessed a man kidnapping the two missing girls. He stated he saw a conservatively and well-dressed man talking to the girls at the mall with a tape recorder and that he later saw the man forcing the two girls into a vehicle. He was given a lie detector test regarding his statement and failed it.
Welch states he lied about his version of events in relation to the case and police dismissed the elaborate version of events. They believed that Lloyd was simply attempting to insinuate himself into the case and play the hero to collect the reward offered in the girls disappearance. However, when the new squad of detectives reread his statement, they noticed how he talked about the kidnapper having a limp.
At the time, investigators considered Raymond Mileski as a top suspect in the case and they recalled how he walked with a limp. They began to believe that Lloyd’s statement from 1975 was possibly true and wanted to speak with him. They found him in a Delaware prison serving a 33 year prison sentence for molesting a 10 old girl. This fact made investigators even more eager to speak with him.
On October 26th 2013, detective Dave Davis traveled with two others, detective Chris Homrock and Montgomery States Attorney Pete Feeney, to Delaware so they could interview Welch. Chris Hamrock is the detective who discovered Lloyd’s bizarre statement regarding the Lyon sisters disappearance.
When they arrived to interview Lloyd, he immediately knew what they wanted to talk to him about. Lloyd seemed to enjoy talking to the detectives about the Lyon sisters case. In the first session of the interview, Lloyd denied any wrongdoing in the case and said he was not involved in any way. The detectives believed that Lloyd witnessed or assisted in kidnapping the girls by Raymond Mileski.
After a full day of interrogation and talking, detective Davis decided to ask one more thing. Lloyd’s answer to the question would ultimately crack the case. He asked what Lloyd thought Mileski had done to the Lyon sisters. Lloyd then said “Well, my opinion is that he killed ’em and raped ’em; he killed ’em and he probably burned ’em. I don’t know.” Investigators we’re now convinced Lloyd was probably in someway involved in the sisters disappearance.
In subsequent sessions with multiple detectives including Davis and Homrock, he repeatedly lied about his role in their disappearance. Lloyd would eventually admit that he assisted in abducting the Lyon sisters but that their kidnapping was planned throughly and carried out by other members of his family. He named a cousin, his uncle, Richard Welch, and his father, Lee Welch as the ones who wanted to take the girls and did so.
They dove deeper into the Welch family and discovered they practiced sexually exploiting tactics like incest with their younger offspring and it wasn’t uncommon for the younger of the family to sexually experiment with siblings or relatives. Lloyd even accused his father of sexually abusing him as a child. Investigators believe that both sisters feel into this mess after they were abducted.
Lloyd would go on to name Richard Welch as the chief culprit in the sisters abduction and subsequent murders. Richard was 70 years old when he was asked about the Lyon sisters case and regarding the accusations against him by not only Welch but other family members. Various family members have accused Richard of violent behavior towards them in the past.
Richard was summoned to appear before a grand jury in February of 2015, he was asked if he had been involved in any way in the Lyon case and he said no to each and every question they asked him. Richards wife, Patricia, would later be arrested for organizing family efforts to impede the investigation into the Lyon sisters disappearance. She was charged with perjury and was sentenced to probation.
Investigators still had trouble with finding out how Lloyd managed to kidnap the girls without causing any commotion near the Wheaton Plaza. They believe Lloyd was involved due to his resemblance to a second possible suspect in the case. According to a friend of the Lyon sisters, she saw a man with long hair and a mustache inappropriately staring at the sisters in the mall. She confronted him about it.
Lloyd initially named his cousin, Teddy Welch, as the person who abducted the sisters but Teddy was 11 years old in March of 1975. They have not proven his possible involvement in the case. Lloyd was described as a remaining offspring of the hippie movement which started in the late 1960s but had faded by 1975. He was known to be a heavy drug user along with his girlfriend, Helen, and struggled with problems with alcohol.
Investigators hoped to find out what exactly happened to the Lyon sisters but they had a hard time extracting details from Lloyd Welch’s story since he charged Lamont every detail. Based off what he told them, investigators believe that the Lyon sisters were abducted by Lloyd and Richard and were taken to a house where they were heavily drugged, raped, murdered and dismembered with an axe.
Investigators believe he may have lured the girls into a station wagon with the offer of getting high. Lloyd recalled how one of the files cried while being in the backseat. Investigators presume both girls were kept in a basement that could only be accessed from the backyard of a home. Investigators believe that both girls remains were burned in a bonfire of some type.
Lloyd originally named Richards home as the place where the girls were kept captive for days before being murdered but found that it would’ve had police presence at the time the girls would’ve been there. They also noted that specific landmarks he described such as train tracks behind the home and the bridge over the Anacostia River was a short distance from the door. The house was not the right one.
Lloyd named another home that belonged to an older friend of his cousin Teddy but it also was not the right one. Investigators eventually found that the home they were looking for belonged to Lloyd’s father, Lee. The house got the description and had the specific landmarks he described. Lloyd recalled how his uncle pulled out of the driveway with the Lyon sisters in the car heading towards the river.
The home was described as a two story white clapboard duplex with pale blue trim and an uneven front porch. It was located at 4714 Baltimore Avenue. The home had a basement that was only accessible through a cellar sore in the backyard. People had since moved into the residence but allowed detectives to look inside the basement. Once they were in the basement, they knew that this was undoubtedly the place where the frightened Lyon sisters were kept until their murders.
In the basement, there were two rooms that were completely cut off from the house above. The detectives believe the girls were kept and raped down in those rooms as you wouldn’t be able to hear anything from above. The day after they discovered the true murder site, Davis brought forensics to the basement where they cleared away old furniture and started spraying the area with Bluestar spray, a blood detection substance.
The spray reacts with even the slightest trace of hemoglobin and grows brightly under a blue light. The floors and walls of the outer basement room revealed no traces of blood. They then cleared some debris from the backroom and sprayed some more. The room lit up from floor to ceiling. They described it as lighting up like a murder scene. This is where the sisters were slaughtered.
Lloyd stated that later after he assisted in kidnapping the girls, he saw Richard sexually assaulting one of them. He later went into the basement sometime after the abductions and found his father, Lee, and Richard dismembered Katherine’s body. Richard put Katherine’s remains inside of a green army styled duffel bag and ordered him to take the bag with him to Taylor’s Mountain which was located in between Bedford and Roanoke.
Lloyd’s cousins, Henry Parker and Connie Parker Akers, recall how Lloyd came to Taylor Mountain with a bloody duffel bag that weighed between 60 to 70 pounds and smelled like death. The bag was thrown into a fire pit and burned in a bonfire which lasted several days. Residents in the area recall how the fire “smelled of death”. Investigators have searched the Mountain since 2014 for any possible remains of Katherine’s. They did find a human tooth but it has since been lost.
Investigators do not know what exactly happened to Shelia but know without a doubt she was murdered with Katherine and her body possibly buried in an unknown location. Neither of the sisters remains have ever been found. Despite this, investigators had more than enough evidence to charge Lloyd with the crime.
In July of 2015, Lloyd Welch was charged with two counts of 1st degree felony murder in the deaths of Shelia and Katherine Lyon. The felony was abduction with intent to defile. Richard continues to maintain his innocence in the case and has not been criminally charged in the case. He remains a person of interest in the case, however. Richard passed away in August of 2020 and told whatever knowledge he had of the case with him.
In September of 2017, Lloyd plead guilty to all charges and he told the judge that he did participate in the abduction of both girls but that he did not rape or kill them. As a part of the plea deal, he also pleaded guilty to two sexual assaults on children in the 1990s. These crimes were discovered while he was investigated for the girls disappearances.
Lloyd was sentenced to 48 years in prison for the murders and is scheduled to serve his sentence once he completes his 30 year sentence for molestation. It’s unlikely Lloyd will ever be released from prison since he was already in his 60s when he was convicted. Investigators have stated there was a conspiracy behind the Lyon case and that more people than just Lloyd were involved in the abduction and murder.
Any other suspects they have in the case have either died or they have no evidence to charge them with. Lee Welch is the only other names suspect in the case besides Lloyd and Richard. Lee died in 1998. He was never charged in the case. Investigators did at one point find human DNA in the blood samples from the basement murder scene but were unable to make a match to either sister since the sample was so degraded.
At the time of their disappearance, Shelia and Katherine’s father was a well known radio personality at WMAL, a local radio station then held by the owner of the ABC television affiliate in Washington and the Washington Star (defunct). John later became a victims counselor. The sisters had two older brothers and they lived in the Kensington area at the time of their abduction.
Katherine and Shelia remain missing. Foul play is highly suspected in the cases.
Images: Lloyd Welch (circa 1977), Lloyd (circa 1990s), and Lloyd (circa 2017)
Image: Richard Welch Sr. (circa 1975) and Richard (circa 2014)
Image: Amy Welch-Johnson, circa 2015
Image: Leslie Engelking, circa 2015
Image: Gladys Stangee, circa 2015
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Montgomery County Police Department 240-773-5070