A 60-year-old man who pleaded guilty in the killing of two young sisters from Maryland was sentenced Tuesday to 48 years in prison, more than four decades after the girls vanished during a trip to a local shopping mall, the AP reports. Lloyd Lee Welch Jr. entered his plea in a Virginia court Tuesday and was sentenced soon after to two 48-year terms to run concurrently. The first-degree felony murder charges had carried the possibility of a death sentence. Welch, who's already serving a long prison term in Delaware for sexually molesting a 10-year-old girl, also received a 12-year sentence in two unrelated sexual assault cases in Virginia. He had been scheduled to go on trial Tuesday, but his trial request was withdrawn last week.
Welch is accused of snatching 12-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year-old Katherine Lyon in March 1975. When the girls disappeared, Welch was an 18-year-old former worker at a traveling carnival. Authorities believe he burned the girls' bodies on a remote mountain in Virginia where his family owned land. They were never recovered. The Lyon sisters' disappearance shattered the sense of security in Kensington, Md., rattling parents to the point where they no longer let their children play outside. Cold-case detectives began focusing on Welch in 2013 after they noticed a composite sketch that resembled a 1977 mugshot of Welch in a burglary. In interviews with police beginning in 2013, Welch acknowledged he was at the mall that day and said he believed the girls had been "abducted, raped, and burned up." He was charged in their deaths two years ago. (Read more cold cases stories.)