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January 2016 trial date set for Richmond Hill case

FORT WAYNE, IN (WISH) – A key suspect in the 2012 south side explosion case will remain behind bars until at least September. That’s when a judge agreed to hear Bob Leonard’s request to reduce his bail amount, along with 15 other requests to exclude specific pieces of evidence at his trial.

Leonard appeared before a judge in Allen County for the first time Wednesday morning since a judge ruled that extensive media coverage would make a fair trial impossible in Marion County.

Leonard is accused, along with his half-brother Mark, Monserrate Shirley and Gary Thompson of setting the explosion at Richmond Hill in November 2012 that killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth and damaged or destroyed more than 80 homes.

Wednesday’s hearing before Judge Frances Gull lasted just 13 minutes, following a lengthy discussion between attorneys in the judge’s chambers. Following that meeting, Gull told the two sides she would address up to 16 different motions that have been filed in the case–12 from the defense and four from prosecutors–during a three-day set of hearings in September.

Most of those motions revolve around pretrial admissibility of evidence in the case, said Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson following Wednesday’s hearing.

“Judge (John) Marnocha heard many of the same motions in Mark Leonard’s case and denied them. They’re standard filings in life without parole of death penalty cases,” she said.

Gull could also hear evidence on Bob Leonard’s request to reduce his bail amount, filed in Marion County last year. But, Robinson said Wednesday she believes the request will be dropped before then.

“It’s my understanding the defense intends to withdraw the let bail motion,” she said. “Some defense attorneys use that, particularly as it existed under the old statute, as a means of finding out what the state’s evidence might be. They were entitled to hear from the state’s witnesses and could get some insight perhaps into what the witnesses would say. But statute has changed in that regard so it’s less useful now in that manner, ” Robinson said.

Leonard’s attorneys declined to comment following Wednesday’s hearing, but told the judge they will be ready for the scheduled trial date of January 19, 2016. Getting to that point, however, Robinson cautioned, will be a significant undertaking, particularly in a case that includes more than 2,000 exhibits and 40,000 documents.

“First and foremost, in this case, we have significant amount of evidence. Basically, a semi-truck load of evidence to bring up and store. And, in essence, we move up an office every time we change venue. Everything you might not commonly think about, from paper and pen to copiers, we have to have handy when we get here. The most difficult part is getting witnesses, most of whom come from Indianapolis. We have to arrange for them to be here, and be here at a certain time. And, what if we don’t get to them on the day we anticipate? Then we have to put them up overnight. Those are the logistical issues,” she said.

It remained unclear Wednesday if Leonard will remain in Allen County or be brought back to Marion County while he awaits trial. His attorneys filed a motion Wednesday asking him to be transferred, but asked for the judge to seal it. Neither side would comment Wednesday on whether the transfer is to Fort Wayne or from Fort Wayne.

“That’s something that probably will be clarified by a court order within the next week or so, where you’ll have access to it,” Robinson said.

With Leonard’s case on hold until September, attention now turns to the first scheduled trial in the case for Mark Leonard. It is scheduled to begin in June in South Bend.