Report: Suspect in 1975 missing sisters case to plead guilty

Last Updated Sep 8, 2017 11:44 AM EDT

BEDFORD, Va. — A convicted sex offender accused in the 1975 murders of two young sisters who disappeared from a Maryland shopping mall is expected to plead guilty to the crime that has haunted the region for more than four decades.

Lloyd Lee Welch Jr., 60, was scheduled to stand trial Tuesday in the killings of 12-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year-old Katherine Lyon.

Online court records in Bedford County, Virginia, indicate the trial has been “withdrawn” and a plea hearing is scheduled instead for the same date.

A source confirmed the expected guilty plea to CBS affiliate WUSA9. The Washington Post, citing multiple officials familiar with the case, also reported Thursday that Welch plans to plead guilty.

Delaware State Police/WUSA9

Prosecutors and Welch’s attorneys declined to comment, citing a gag order that Circuit Judge James Updike issued in the case.

The Lyon sisters disappeared March 25, 1975, after walking from their home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., to Wheaton Plaza to have pizza with friends during a school vacation.

Police affidavits unsealed in 2015 detailed how Welch surfaced in the case. A week after the girls vanished the then-18-year-old Welch went to the mall, Wheaton Plaza, and told a security guard that he had seen the sisters leave with a man in a car. Police gave him a polygraph test which showed he was lying, according to the affidavits, which did not say whether authorities continued to look into Welch.

The detectives on the case in 2013 set out to learn more about Welch, who had been arrested in 1977 in a burglary case. His mug shot from that arrest strongly resembled a sketch in the Lyon sisters case that had been drawn based on a witness’s description of a man at Wheaton Plaza who was staring at the girls and following them, according to the affidavits.

In interviews with police beginning in 2013, Welch acknowledged he was there, and said he believed they’d been “abducted, raped and burned up,” according to court documents. He also allegedly admitted leaving the mall with the girls.

Welch, a former carnival worker, was charged two years ago in the killings. He was already in prison in Delaware, having pleaded guilty in 1998 to molesting a 10-year-old girl.

If convicted at trial in Bedford of two counts of first-degree felony murder during…

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