Man pleads guilty to murders of Maryland sisters kidnapped in 1975

RICHMOND, Va., Sept 12 (Reuters) - A one-time carnival worker pleaded guilty on Tuesday and was sentenced to 48 years in prison for the 1975 kidnapping and murders of two young Maryland sisters, resolving one of the most publicized crimes in the state's history.

Lloyd Lee Welch Jr., 60, was sentenced in Bedford County, Virginia, where police believe he disposed of the remains of sisters Katherine and Sheila Lyon.

Welch was accused of snatching Katherine, 10, and Sheila, 12, from a Wheaton, Maryland, mall they visited in March 1975 to see Easter decorations. The disappearance of the girls, daughters of a local radio personality, triggered what was then one of the biggest police investigations ever in the Washington region.

More photos from the case

8 PHOTOS
1975 kidnapping, murder of Katherine and Sheila Lyon
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1975 kidnapping, murder of Katherine and Sheila Lyon
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 11: Montgomery County Police Captain Paul Starks, left, and Captain Marcus G. Jones stand behind a mug shot of Lloyd Lee Welch, Jr., the person of interest in the disappearance of the Lyon sisters, right, during a press conference at the Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters on February 11, 2014 in Gaithersburg, Md. The Lyon sisters disappeared in 1975 after a trip to Wheaton Plaza. Sheila, 12, and her younger sister Katherine, 10, disappeared without ever being seen again. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 11: Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger, left, and Special Agent in Charge F.B.I. Baltimore Field Office, Steve Vogt, right, exit a press conference behind a mug shot of Lloyd Lee Welch, Jr., a person of interest in the disappearance of the Lyon sisters, following a press conference at the Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters on February 11, 2014 in Gaithersburg, Md. The Lyon sisters disappeared in 1975 after a trip to Wheaton Plaza. Sheila, 12, and her younger sister Katherine, 10, disappeared after a trip to Wheaton Plaza to view Easter displays. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 11: Montgomery County Police Officer III, Robert Ladany uncovers mug shots of Lloyd Lee Welch, Jr., the person of interest in the disappearance of the Lyon sisters, during a press conference at the Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters on February 11, 2014 in Gaithersburg, Md. The Lyon sisters disappeared in 1975 after a trip to Wheaton Plaza. Sheila, 12, and her younger sister Katherine, 10, disappeared without ever being seen again. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WHEATON, MARYLAND - JULY 15: A press conference was held on Wednesday July 15, 2015 in the case of the Lyons sisters who went missing forty years ago. Mother, Mary Lyons is pictured getting a hug as she is pictured leaving before the press conference was over. Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. has been indicted on first-degree murder charges. Twelve-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year-old Katharine Lyon walked from their house to the Wheaton Plaza Mall in March 1975. The sisters, 12-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year old Katharine Lyon walked from their house to the Wheaton Plaza Mall in 1975 and never returned home. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WHEATON, MARYLAND - JULY 15: Mother, Mary Lyons, looks on during the press conference. A press conference was held on Wednesday July 15, 2015 in the case of the Lyons sisters who went missing forty years ago. Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. has been indicted on first-degree murder charges. Twelve-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year-old Katharine Lyon walked from their house to the Wheaton Plaza Mall in March 1975. The sisters, 12-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year old Katharine Lyon walked from their house to the Wheaton Plaza Mall in 1975 and never returned home. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WHEATON, MARYLAND - JULY 15: A press conference was held on Wednesday July 15, 2015 in the case of the Lyons sisters who went missing forty years ago. Father, John Lyons, is pictured during the press conference. Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. has been indicted on first-degree murder charges. Twelve-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year-old Katharine Lyon walked from their house to the Wheaton Plaza Mall in March 1975. The sisters, 12-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year old Katharine Lyon walked from their house to the Wheaton Plaza Mall in 1975 and never returned home. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WHEATON, MARYLAND - JULY 15: Teresa Brookland, of Baltimore was a classmate of the sisters in elementary school. She looks on during the press conference. She was the former director of the Missing and Exploited Childrens Association of Maryland. A press conference was held on Wednesday July 15, 2015 in the case of the Lyons sisters who went missing forty years ago. Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. has been indicted on first-degree murder charges. Twelve-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year-old Katharine Lyon walked from their house to the Wheaton Plaza Mall in March 1975. The sisters, 12-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year old Katharine Lyon walked from their house to the Wheaton Plaza Mall in 1975 and never returned home. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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The bodies have never been found. Police have said they think the sisters' remains may have been burned and then disposed of in central Virginia, where Welch has relatives.

“This is a good day for the cause of justice. We’ve closed the chapter on Lloyd Welch,” county prosecutor Wes Nance said at a news conference.

Welch, a former carnival worker and drifter, has been in a Delaware prison since 1997 on an unrelated child sex charge. The plea agreement on Tuesday calls for him to serve his 48-year term in a Virginia prison after completing the Delaware sentence.

The Virginia prison term for two counts of first-degree murder “for all intents and purposes will be a life sentence,” Nance said.

More on cold cases

11 PHOTOS
Notable cold cases and unsolved murders throughout history
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Notable cold cases and unsolved murders throughout history

In June 1893 Lizzie Borden stood trial, later acquitted, for killing her father and stepmother with an ax.

(Photo via Bettmann/Getty Images)

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(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Bucks Row, now Durward Street, east London, where the body of Mary Ann Nichols, victim of Jack the Ripper, was found lying across the gutter.

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Head shot of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, a murder victim nicknamed the Black Dahlia. 

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Daily News front page dated June, 16, 1990, Headline: IS HE THE ZODIAC?, Police sketch of man who approached latest victim in Central Park last Thursday and asked him his birth date., June 26, 1990 . , Zodiac Killer. , Heriberto Seda. Headlines. IS HE THE ZODIAC ?

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U.S. labor leader Jimmy Hoffa is photographed at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport, Pennsylvania in this April 12, 1971 file photograph. Hoffa was switching planes from San Francisco, and was returning to the federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Hoffa was let out of prison to visit his wife, who had been hospitalized with heart problems. FBI teams on May 25, 2006 sifted by hand through dirt from a chest-deep hole in the ground in an intense search for the body of Jimmy Hoffa three decades after his disappearance. Hoffa was last seen outside a Detroit-area restaurant where he was to meet New Jersey Teamsters' boss Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, a member of the Genovese crime family, and a local Mafia captain, Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone. Hoffa was declared dead in 1982, and numerous books about his life have pinned his disappearance on mobsters who murdered him because they did not want him interfering with their close ties to the union.

(REUTERS/Jerry Siskind)

 The site where 6 year old JonBenet Ramsey was killed in Boulder, Colorado, 1996.

(Photo by Karl Gehring/Liaison)

Black car in which rapper Tupac Shakur was fatally shot by unknown driveby assassins as he was riding w. friend Death Row records. pres. Marion Suge Knight, who survived shooting, behind police tape at crime scene (Photo by Malcolm Payne/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Police detectives released this composite drawing March 27 of the man they believe killed rap star Notorious B.I.G. in Los Angeles recently. The suspect, a black man in his early 20's with close-cropped hair, was wearing a bow-tie the night of the drive-by killing. Investigators have set up a toll free number for the public to call with any information about the suspect. NOTORIOUS BIG
Donna Norris poses next to a photo of her daughter Amber Hagerman, January 4, 2011, who was kidnapped 15 years ago while riding a bicycle near Norris mother's home in Arlington, Texas on January 13, 1996. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
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Montgomery County, Maryland, detectives reopened the nearly four-decade-old cold case in 2013. Welch was charged in 2015.

Nance said Welch had not admitted to participating in the actual murder of the girls. Welch also at various times has identified different people as being co-conspirators in the crime, he said.

The death penalty was taken off the table in consultation with the Lyon family and law enforcement authorities, Nance said. (Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Ian Simpson and Jonathan Oatis)

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