Investigators knew he was a pedophile and a sociopath and certain he abducted and killed the Lyon sisters, a case that lay cold for more than 40 years, but they needed a confession.
Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. pleaded guilty in September, but it took some clever and persistent Montgomery County, Maryland, detectives to get it out of him.
Detectives Katie Leggett and Mark Janney spent an exhausting year navigating the twisted corridors of Welch’s troubled mind in pursuit of one goal: What happened to Katie and Sheila Lyon. The girls, ages 12 and 10, disappeared from a Wheaton shopping center in 1975.
Welch, already convicted of attacking other girls, was the only thing standing between the detectives and the resolution of a 40-year mystery.
“I think we ended up calculating over 100 hours of interrogation,” Leggett said.
“(Sociopaths) have no empathy, they have no emotion, really, and therefore they’re able to commit such a heinous crime,” Janney said. “They have no compassion or empathy for the victims, so you have to be very fact based with them.”
“You’re not going to appeal to him with emotional themes like remorse, forgiveness, things like that,” he said. “It means nothing to him.”
Leggett and Janney went at Welch as a team, a classic good cop-bad cop interrogation.
“’I’m a mother,’ ‘I know how this feels,’ ‘I hate to see men cry,’ that kind of thing, and he would listen to that, and then he tried to give us a little bit of garbage here and there, and then Mark would hard-line him.”
For months they questioned Welch, bringing him more bits of information gleaned from his relatives on the family farm in Bedford, Virginia, who say Welch showed up with a duffel bag shortly after the girls disappeared.
“He immediately owned that he had the Army duffel bag,” Janney said. “It took awhile to get him to come around to admit that a body was in it.”
Welch loved the chase and toyed with the detectives.
“He had 40 years to get ready for us, and when we get there and finally get in the room with him, he’s kind of in the driver’s seat and we had to figure out how to take control,” Leggett said.
Ultimately, they did take control, and Welch confessed.
“I don’t know if ‘cracking’ is the right word because I don’t know that we still feel that we’ve completely cracked him,” Leggett said.
More than 40 years of torture for the Lyon family was over.
“To hear Mr. Lyon say in the press conference that we treated Sheila and Katherine like they were our daughters and sisters was just the greatest thing that I could ever hear or have received from this case,” Janney said.
But for the detectives, the case still lingers.
“We still have unanswered questions that we, that kind of haunt us,” Janney said.
“Evil really exists in a different form than I've ever seen before,” Leggett said.