Book Review: THE LAST STONE, Lloyd Welch speaks

The Last Stone
Mark Bowden

In April 1975, sisters Kate and Sheila went missing from Wheaton Plaza, a suburban shopping mall in Washington D.C. Despite significant publicity and major effort on the part of law enforcement, the girls were never located. Generations of cold case detectives returned to the files hoping new eyes and new technologies would uncover a lead and bring resolution to the family.

In 2013, after two years on the cold case squad, Lloyd Welch came to the attention of Sergeant Chris Homrock as a possible witness. But when lead interrogator Dave Davis questioned Lloyd, he presented more like a suspect than a bystander with information. That initial interview began a two year relationship in which the detectives, aided both by the FBI and law enforcement in Virginia, attempted to expose Welch’s many falsehoods while they also tried to uncover new evidence. In so doing, the detectives not only visited Lloyd nine times interrogating him hours at a stretch; they also dove into the Welch family history which was full of crime, abuse, and a history of secrecy.

I enjoy reading true crime and I think Mark Bowden, who was a junior reporter covering the Lyon sisters’ abduction, has a history of accessible, well-researched books. The Last Stone focused on the interviews with Lloyd who was the detectives’ “last stone” after all other leads ran dry. Bowden quotes extensively from them, and while I’m sure this isn’t true, it felt like they made up at least 80% of the book.

The book does illustrate how detectives might approach a suspect who has nothing to gain from talking but who is the only source of information. Lloyd Welch, though, was such an inveterate liar that there was no clear resolution, and after reading the book, I felt disgusted by this brush with evil in a way I usually don’t when reading true crime.

I also wished that Bowden had included more information about his approach to the material. He mentioned interviewing the detectives and family members and even recounted a visit with Welch himself, but I wanted to know how he got access to the police records and went about reviewing them.

Overall, I was a little disappointed in The Last Stone and felt like I needed a long, hot shower to wash off the ick of not just Lloyd but his entire creepy family. I would only recommend this to readers who are very interested in this particular case or in interview techniques.

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