In March 1975, sisters Sheila and Kate Lyon, ages 10 and 12, vanished from a suburban Maryland shopping mall. Despite massive search efforts and thousands of hours of police investigation no trace of the girls was ever found. Eventually the disappearance was assigned to the Cold Case file, waiting for new potential evidence to surface. In 2013 a detective nearing retirement and assigned to cold cases noticed a detail that had escaped the eyes of previous investigators. It was a detail that ultimately led to the conviction of the person responsible for the crime.
Investigative journalist Mark Bowden is the author of numerous books, including “Black Hawk Down.” In “The Last Stone” Bowden details the unraveling of the grisly mystery of the Lyon sisters’ disappearance after it had lain dormant for nearly 40 years. Bowden describes in abundant detail the techniques used by an experienced interrogator to coax the truth from a suspicious and resistant suspect. And in the telling he provides a chilling look into the workings of a criminal mind.
In 2013 Lloyd Lee Welch was serving a sentence in a Delaware prison after conviction for child molestation. Shortly after the Lyon sisters went missing, Welch approached police and volunteered a statement as a witness to the abduction. The statement appeared to implicate a person who, by deduction from indirect evidence, had been on a short list of potential suspects, but who had died in custody in 2005.
Maryland detective Dave Davis was assigned to interview Welch at the Delaware prison to determine if Welch could provide more information that might finally bring the case to closure. Davis and a colleague devised a strategy for the initial interview, an approach that would ostensibly be about an unrelated matter.
Welch derailed the plan with his first words to the detectives. “I know why you’re here,” he said. “You’re here about those two missing kids.”
Over the following three years and in numerous interviews, Davis and his partners painstakingly extracted bits of information from Welch that were eventually used to convict him of the abduction and murder of the sisters.
Bowden reviewed more than 70 hours of videotaped interviews as well as volumes of documentation to describe the procedures by which Davis and his partners were able to pry the evidence from Welch. Throughout the process Davis remained the “good cop,” the one who maintained the appearance of being on Welch’s side. At each subsequent interview Welch would disclose nuggets of information the detectives were able to mine from a slag pile of lies.
“The Last Stone” will appeal to readers who enjoy true crime writing such as Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” As the story unfolds, graphic details, which some might find unsettling, are revealed. And the final page of the book is a photograph which, although innocent enough in itself, brings the narrative to a jarring conclusion.