Authorities have named a second person of interest in the presumed killings of two young sisters who vanished from a suburban Washington shopping mall nearly 40 years ago.
"Richard Allen Welch Sr. ... is now considered a person of interest [in the 1975 disappearance of 12-year-old Sheila Lyon and her 10-year-old sister Katherine.]," Assistant Chief Russ Hamill, of Maryland's Montgomery County Police Department, said Thursday.
The potential breakthrough comes nearly eight months after authorities named Welch's nephew, Lloyd Lee Welch, also known as Michael Welch, a person of interest in the case.
Authorities said Lloyd Welch was identified as a suspect during a re-examination of the cold case file.
Hamill announced the latest developments during a press conference in Bedford County, Virginia, where local authorities have been assisting the investigation.
"The investigative efforts of both agencies have led us to determine [Richard Welch] is a person of interest in this case," Hamill said.
Maryland authorities have conducted searches in Bedford County since September. According to police, the Welch family owns property in the area.
"We're looking for evidence and gathering information that may indicate a connection [between this area] and the girls' disappearance," Montgomery County Police Lt. Sonia Pruitt told The Huffington Post in September.
The Lyon girls' disappearance is rooted in the events of March 25, 1975.
Around 11 a.m. that day, the girls left their Kensington, Maryland, home and walked to nearby Wheaton Plaza, a popular suburban shopping center. Wheaton Plaza is now the Westfield Wheaton mall.
The Lyon sisters were on spring break from school at the time and wanted to look at Easter exhibits in the mall. They had about $4 between them.
According to a March 25, 1980, article in The Washington Post, the girls were told by their parents, prominent radio disc jockey John Lyon and his wife Mary, to return home by 4 p.m.
Around 2 p.m., the girls were spotted by witnesses at the Orange Bowl, a pizza shop that was part of a popular chain. What happened after that remains a mystery.
Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said authorities have placed Lloyd Welch at the shopping center on the day the girls disappeared.
"Investigators have established the fact that [Lloyd] Welch was at Wheaton Plaza on March 25, 1975," the chief said at a February press conference. "They've also established that [Lloyd] Welch was observed paying attention to the Lyon sisters while at Wheaton Plaza."
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Manger said Lloyd Welch, now 57, is a convicted sex offender who has "multiple convictions for sexual offenses against young girls" in Virginia, South Carolina and Delaware. He has been incarcerated in Delaware since 1997 for one of those offenses and is scheduled for release in June 2026.
Lloyd Welch was previously employed by a traveling carnival that often set up at shopping malls. That job, police said, took Welch all over the country during the 1970s, '80s and early '90s.
Hamill would not say what led police to name Richard Welch a second person of interest, but he said he "may have been a security guard in the Wheaton area of Montgomery County in the 1970s."
Hamill declined to comment on Richard Welch's current whereabouts and would only say that he is "in his 70s."
According to a public information database, Richard Welch lives in Prince George's County, Maryland. A request for comment made to a number associated with the Welch family was not returned Friday morning.
Also speaking at Thursday's press conference was Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Krantz.
According to Krantz, he has assembled a multi-jurisdictional grand jury that is scheduled to begin examining the case file Friday.
"Our goal is to resolve this case," Krantz said.
J. Todd Matthews, director of case management at the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, told HuffPost on Friday that the potential for a resolution in the case shows it is never too late to stop searching for answers.
"The recent action should also serve as a message to those who think they have eluded justice," Matthews said.
Anyone with information in the sisters' case is asked to call investigators at 1-800-CALL-FBI. Tips may also be submitted online at Tips.fbi.gov.