Police: Convicted sex offender a 'person of interest' in girls' vanishing in 1975

GAITHERSBURG, Md. - A convicted sex offender has been named a person of interest in the disappearance of two girls from Montgomery County nearly 39 years ago.

Investigators say Lloyd Lee Welch, 57, was noticed paying attention to the sisters the afternoon they disappeared on March 25, 1975.

Montgomery County police said Sheila and Katherine Lyons were last seen just after 2 p.m., walking between Wheaton Plaza (now Westfield Wheaton) and their home, only half a mile away.  Their mother told them to be home by 4 that afternoon, but they never returned and disappeared without a trace.

Welch has been in prison in Delaware since 1997.  Police said he traveled extensively throughout the country from the 1970s to the 1990s. This included time as a ride operator for a carnival company. Through the years, Welch was arrested in several states on charges of sexually assaulting young girls and police are concerned there are other victims that have yet to come forward.

 "We have all been haunted by the disappearance of the Lyon sisters," said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger. "Even though so much time has passed, we have not forgotten that those young girls deserve justice, and their family deserves closure.  We're hoping one of you has information that will help us provide both,"

Police added that Welch was known to hitchhike around the Washington, D.C. area and worked as a landscaper in South Carolina and Delaware. Investigators added that Welch spent much of the 1970s and 1980s as a drifter, spending time in hotels and homeless shelters.

"We understand we're asking people to think back several decades to remember details they may not think matter.  However, the information you provide could be vital in our search for evidence, and put to rest difficult questions for the Lyon family and for any other victims who may exist," said Steve Vogt, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Maryland.

The Lyons family is thankful for the continued attention being brought to their daughters' case.

"March 25 th will mark 39 years since Kate and Sheila were taken from our family," the Lyons family said in a statement. "Throughout these years our hopes for a resolution of this mystery have been sustained by the support and efforts of countless members of law enforcement, the news media and the community. The fact that so many people still care about this case means a great deal to us.

"We especially appreciate the tireless efforts of the Montgomery County Police Department, the FBI and all the agencies that have worked to solve this case. We are grateful for any information the public can provide to help bring this story to its conclusion and ask that the family's privacy be respected during this time."

Anyone who may have encountered Welch is asked to call investigators at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or they can submit a tip online at: http://tips.fbi.gov.

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