Suspect pleads guilty in 1975 killing of Maryland sisters
The Lyon sisters disappeared on March 25, 1975, while walking from their home in Kensington, Maryland, to a nearby shopping center. A friend of the sisters said she saw a man following the girls around the shopping center.
Welch, then 18, was questioned in connection to their disappearance, but was later dismissed as a suspect. The case went cold for years until 2013 when detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland noticed the resemblance between a sketch of the suspect and a mug shot of Welch.
Members of Welch's extended family later came forward and told authorities they saw him carrying two large duffel bags on the family's property on Taylor's Mountain in Bedford County, Virginia. He was subsequently charged in the girls' killings in 2015.
The 60-year-old didn't speak during his hearing in Bedford Circuit Court Tuesday, except to enter his plea.
Welch's attorney Tony Anderson told WSET Welch has "a lot of remorse" for what happened.
"In every statement, the one consistent thread is his involvement was in the abduction, not the sexual exploitation or murder," Anderson said.
Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance, however, noted that Welch repeatedly changed his account of who else was involved in the sexual assault and killing of the girls. At one point, authorities named Welch's uncle as a person of interest in the case, but were never able to gather enough evidence to charge him.
The girls' parents, John and Mary Lyon, and her two brothers thanked Montgomery County police for not giving up on the case.
"We just want to say, simply, 'thank you,' and it's been a long, long time, and we're tired, and we just want to go home," John Lyon said.
Welch will serve 48 years in a Virginia penitentiary after completing the remainder of his prison sentence in Delaware for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl.