May 6, 2013
From the cold case files: the 1965 murder of Jean Welch in Cumberland, Maryland
by James Rada, Jr.
Jean Welch carried her basket of wet laundry outside to dry on the clothesline behind her apartment. May 17, 1965 was a sunny, spring day in Cumberland, Maryland, and besides warm to hang clothes on the line, Jean had trader her winter clothes for shorts a short-sleeved blouse.
Cumberland had once been the second-largest city in Maryland. Located in the Appalachian Mountains in western Maryland, the city had boomed with the coal and railroad industries. As those industries struggled and declined, the city's population had peaked in 1940 and had been falling since then to around 31,000 in 1965. Because it was such a small city, it contained neighborhoods that looked more as if they belonged in the suburbs rather than a city. Jean Welch and her family lived in one of these neighborhood on Cumberland's south side.
Jean was an attractive brunette and looking at her, one might find it hard to believe she was 33 years old, let alone the mother of three children. And someone was looking at her as she hung the clothes. A witness would later tell police she had seen Jean hanging the laundry around 1:30 p.m.