FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WISH) – An Allen County jury found 57-year-old Bob Leonard Jr. guilty on 51 counts Wednesday afternoon, including murder, arson, and conspiracy to commit arson.
Jurors deliberated for just about four hours before reaching their decision.
The guilty verdict came after more than a month of testimony, hearing from more than a hundred witnesses, and seeing hundreds of pieces of evidence in the second trial in connection to the Richmond Hill explosion in 2012.
Prosecutors worked to show why they said Bob Leonard played a critical role in the conspiracy to collect insurance money. Leonard’s defense team said prosecutors did not provide credible evidence that Leonard had taken part in the conspiracy.
Investigators said the explosion was set intentionally, by removing a key piece of the gas system from Monserrate Shirley’s home, then removing a Dante valve from the fireplace to allow gas to flow into the home freely. They say the explosion was sparked by placing a cylinder inside a microwave with a timer. Prosecutors charged five people in all, in connection to the plot they say was to collect insurance money.
The 2012 explosion in Indianapolis’ Richmond Hill neighborhood killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth and damaged or destroyed upwards of 80 homes.
John Longworth, victim Dion Longworth’s father, spoke to reporters after the guilty verdicts. He said this was a relief, and thanked the fire department, police department, and prosecutor’s office.
In a separate hearing after the guilty verdicts were read, the judge said she will consider life without parole at Leonard’s sentencing hearing on March 18.
During that hearing, the judge heard a part of an audiotape that had never before been heard in court: the final moments of victim Dion Longworth’s life, as he was trapped inside his burning home. His burglary alarm had gone off, and the company had called him, and recorded the call. The judge will consider that recording as she considers whether Leonard will spend life in prison.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry released this statement following Wednesday’s verdict:
Today’s verdict represents the third step in a long journey for the families of Dion and Jennifer Longworth and for the victims and neighbors of Richmond Hill. More than three years have passed since the night that this senseless, criminal act devastated the lives and destroyed the homes of many. We will continue to pursue our pledge to bring justice for the residents of Richmond Hill as the final pending cases are prosecuted.
As I have previously acknowledged, the investigation and prosecution of this matter has literally taken tens of thousands of hours of effort by numerous individuals. I commend Det. Jeffrey Wager and IMPD investigators, Lt. Mario Garza and IFD investigators, agents of the Federal ATF, Homeland Security, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and our trial team for their extraordinary work leading to the convictions of Mark and Bob Leonard.”
Jurors considered 51 counts in all. Counts 1 and 2 are murder charges. Count 3 is conspiracy to commit arson. Counts 5-16 are arson as a class A felony, or for the people who were hurt in the explosion. Counts 17-50 are arson as a class B felony, or for those people whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Counts 53 and 54 are “knowing” murder, which could carry a life without parole sentence if Leonard is found of guilty. The numbers you do not see listed are the charges Mark Leonard was charged with and Bob was not: insurance fraud and another count of conspiracy.
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