Crime Watch 8

Monserrate Shirley: “They didn’t deserve it”

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WISH) – Monserrate Shirley took the stand Thursday in the second trial in connection to the deadly 2012 Richmond Hill home explosion.

She’s testifying against Bob Leonard, Jr. Leonard faces more than 50 charges, including multiple counts of murder. Five people in all faced charges in connection to the explosion: Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard, Bob Leonard, Gary Thompson, and Glenn Hults.

As part of a plea deal, Shirley agreed to testify against the other defendants in the case.

Shirley is Mark Leonard’s former girlfriend, and her home in the Richmond Hill neighborhood was the epicenter of the explosion that killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth, and damaged or destroyed upwards of 80 homes.

Thursday in Fort Wayne, deputy prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth again walked Shirley through the separate attempts she said were made to spark an explosion at her home to collect insurance money.

Shirley wore an orange jumpsuit, wearing her long curly brown hair down. She was on the stand all day long.

Prosecutors worked to show through her testimony what they say Bob Leonard’s role was in the explosion. Defense attorneys worked to discredit her testimony, by saying she’d lied before.

Shirley was tearful throughout her entire testimony. She spoke with a slight accent, saying she’d move to the United States from Puerto Rico at the age of 25 to go to college to be a nurse. She said she was married for 17 years before divorcing in 2010.

She told jurors how she met Mark Leonard at a bar in 2011, and he moved into her home shortly after. She described how he looked at her home insurance policy, and told her to raise the insurance for the contents of her home to $300,000, doubling the insurance.

Shirley said, “I believe anything he tell me.”

Later she added, “I was in love with him.”

Shirley was especially tearful when recalling her neighbors, Jennifer and Dion Longworth. They were killed in the explosion. She told the jury, “they didn’t deserve it.” She added, “no one.”

She described the conversations with Mark Leonard, leading up to the attempts to spark an explosion in the home.

Shirley told jurors, “Mark Leonard said I’m going to show you how to make money.”

She added that he said, “It’s going to be easy. We can do it to this [her] house.”

Shirley described the first attempt she said Gary Thompson was involved with. It didn’t happen. Then, she described meeting Bob Leonard, Mark’s brother, for the first time.

She described coming home from work to see Mark on the phone with his brother Bob, saying “I have work for you to do. I can’t tell you on the phone.”

She said she heard Mark and Bob talk in the garage that night, and later after Bob left, she said Mark “tell me his brother Bob would do anything he ask him to do. He said Bob is the one who is going to do it.”

She said the two were first focused on using the thermostat to spark the explosion.

Shirley told jurors, “Mark tell me he was going to pay Bob Leonard $10,000.”

She explained that Bob had wanted $1,200 up front, but she didn’t have the money.

Shirley consistently repeated, “I’m telling the truth.” She added multiple times, “I was just doing everything Mark Leonard told me to do.”

As the day went on, prosecutors walked her through the days leading up to the explosion, explaining how she made reservations at the casino, arranged for her daughter to go to a babysitter’s, and boarded her cat Snowball multiple times.

She told prosecutors, she tried to tell Mark Leonard she didn’t want to go through with the explosion, explaining she’d offered Mark Leonard her 401K, but he said that wasn’t enough money.

She described another conversation with Bob Leonard, where she gave him $40 dollars to get a part they needed. She wasn’t sure what that part was.

Shirley walked jurors through the night of the explosion, from finding out at the casino the explosion was much bigger than she said she’d anticipated, to the days after the explosion.

She described a conversation she said took place at Bob Leonard’s trailer. She told jurors Bob Leonard said, “You’re in it. If you talk, we talk.”

Shirley said she told Bob and Mark, “I say two people died, two innocent people died.” She explained Bob said, “Oh well, they died.”

Shirley repeated after that, “I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not afraid anymore.”

She added tearfully about her neighbors, “I can’t bring them back. Every day they’re in my mind. I wish I could bring them back… The only thing I can do is tell the truth.”

Defense attorney Ted Minch asked Monserrate Shirley about her multiple conversations after the explosion with neighbors, even television interviews, where she never admitted to her role in the explosion.

He focused on her role as an ICU nurse, explaining she made decisions for herself on a daily basis for that job. He also pointed out she deposited several checks after the explosion, including donations from her daughter’s school and insurance money.

Minch also told Shirley  she’d even suggested to her mother at the time of the explosion that her ex-husband may have had something to do with the explosion.

Minch also reminded Shirley, she could spend no time in prison in exchange for her testimony. She maintained she was telling the truth, replying at one point, “Bob Leonard was there. Bob Leonard was there… These people deserve the truth. I’m sorry, but these people deserve the truth.”

Shirley maintained she was afraid of Mark Leonard, and “did exactly what he told me word by word.” She said Mark Leonard had even threatened he would kill her and her daughter if she spoke up.

She said, “I’m not afraid anymore… This is my chance to tell what happened.”

Minch reminded her, she wasn’t there that night, so she didn’t see what happened at her home, saying, “You didn’t see what Bob Leonard did; you weren’t there.”

Shirley also testified in Mark Leonard’s trial in South Bend this summer. She told the jury that Mark Leonard had brought up the plot to collect insurance money, saying “it was only going to be a small fire.”

Mark Leonard was sentenced to two life sentences without parole and 75 years in prison.

Watch for more throughout the day on WISH-TV at 5 and 6 p.m.

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