Richmond Hill suspect in court Friday morning
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A fourth suspect arrested Wednesday in connection to the deadly 2012 south side explosion will face a judge Friday morning.
Additional charges were filed Thursday morning against 44-year-old Gary Thompson. He now faces 34 of charges of arson, 13 charges of arson resulting in bodily injury and two charges of murder.
Thompson admitted he worked on a thermostat inside Monserrate Shirley’s home the week before it exploded, court documents filed Thursday show.
He’s now accused, along with Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard, of helping to set the explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood that killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth and damaged nearly 80 homes in November 2012.A TWO-YEAR INVESTIGATION
In a news conference Thursday morning, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said investigators had kept “a number of suspects on their radar” over the last two years, including Thompson. Thompson was employed by Mark Leonard for several years, including a stint as a handyman at a vacant hotel at South East Street and East Thompson Road where Leonard was serving as a caretaker.
Watch the full video of the news conference below.(Story continues below the video)
Prosecutors wouldn’t comment Thursday on whether Thompson is the so-called “mystery man” seen by multiple witnesses getting out of a white cargo van in the driveway of Shirley’s house on Fieldfare Way the afternoon of the explosion. But court documents filed Thursday show Thompson denied he was there that day.
Court documents show he did admit, however, that he had been in the van before.
“Gary Thompson has driven Mark Leonard’s white cargo van and has been to Mark Leonard and Monserrate Shirley’s house,” the documents allege.
Asked about Thompson’s identity as the suspect seen in the van, Curry called it “a matter for trial.” But, he later said detectives were no longer looking for additional suspects connected to the case.
“If the investigators learn of, and continue to follow up on information that leads to additional individuals, then we’ll pursue that. As of today, that is not the case,” he said.THE EXPLOSION PLOT
Court documents allege that Mark Leonard initially began talking over the explosion plot in July 2012 while at a pool party at a friend’s house near Geist Reservoir. Leonard allegedly asked the friend to convince Shirley that it would be easy to submit an insurance claim if she had a fire in her house. He had recently convinced her to raise her coverage to $300,000, which she agreed to do after he said he wanted to remodel and bring some expensive items into the home.
She rejected the plan, saying it was “too risky.”
The two didn’t speak of it again for months, Shirley told detectives last week.
Thompson then told detectives that Mark Leonard approached him in October 2012 and offered to pay him $5,000 to pour six cans of gasoline inside Shirley’s home and set it on fire while he and Shirley were at a casino. This exchange happened three weeks before the home exploded, Curry said.
“We are ready. This is the weekend. We are going to the casino and we are going to do it,” Mark Leonard allegedly told Thompson outside his trailer, according to testimony given by Shirley to detectives.
“But, Gary Thompson advised that he became scared and did not set the fire,” court documents read. “On Sunday October 28, 2012, Mark Leonard and Monserrate Shirley arrived at Gary Thompson’s trailer and Mark Leonard was angry at him because he did not set the fire. When asked why he did not start the fire by Mark Leonard, Gary Thompson made up some excuse which involved the police stopping him.”A CONSPIRACY
Thompson told detectives that Leonard was “still mad,” several days later, but asked him to “work on the thermostat” inside Shirley’s home. Thompson told detectives that he re-installed an “expensive digital thermostat” in the home, where a cheaper version capable of making a spark had been put in.
He also allegedly told detectives that Leonard told him why the thermostat had been swapped out.
“Gary Thompson is aware that Mark Leonard was thinking of using natural gas to create a fire a Monserrate Shirley’s house, because Mark Leonard had asked Gary Thompson about the properties of natural gas. He had asked specifically about how much natural gas it would take to fill the house and reach a candle burning in the upstairs bathroom,” court documents read.
Thompson told investigators that an attempt the following weekend to use natural gas and a candle to spark an explosion at Shirley’s home failed, according to court documents.
Several days later, Thompson told detectives Leonard “talked about plugging up the fireplace chimney to prevent the use of natural gas.” Shirley told detectives she saw it happen.
“She observed Mr. Thompson and Mark Leonard stuffing cardboard up the fireplace to block the chimney. But, again, on that second weekend, any attempt [to ignite the natural gas] failed,” Curry said Thursday.
“Gary Thompson advised there was discussion a microwave oven could also be programmed to start with metal in the microwave, which would spark and become an ignition source,” court documents state. Earlier court documents allege such a microwave-based spark was the catalyst for the explosion in Shirley’s home.
Thompson told detectives he had been paid $80 by Leonard two days before the explosion for his work on the thermostat and assistance at the hotel, but denied having any direct role in the explosion, according to charging documents.PLEA DEAL DETAILS
Curry said Thompson first provided details to detectives during an interview Jan. 19, the day before a plea agreement with Shirley was presented to a judge. A follow-up interview with Thompson was conducted on Friday, court documents show.
Thompson’s charges hinged on Shirley’s information over the last two weeks, Curry said.
“Pinpointing the information that led to these charges originated with Ms. Shirley,” he said Thursday. “It was not until the information provided by Ms. Shirley that the focus became on Mr. Thompson.”
Shirley’s plea agreement will result in a reduced prison sentence if she provides information and testimony about the case.
In court documents, prosecutors paint Thompson as a “co-conspirator,” saying “the intent of the conspiracy was to commit arson for financial gain.”
Thompson was a part of that conspiracy, prosecutors allege, because he did not “voluntarily abandon (his) effort to commit the underlying crime and to voluntarily prevent its commission.” State law “provides that a person who knowingly or intentionally aids another person in the commission of an offense commits that offense,” prosecutors wrote in charging documents.
“In December 2012 when the first arrests were made, we stated at that time that it was our obligation as a public safety community to do everything possible to make certain that justice was done on behalf of every single victim in the Richmond Hill explosion,” Curry said. “The developments of the last two weeks have been a significant step in achieving that goal.”
No attorney was listed as appointed or hired by Thompson on court records Thursday. He is scheduled to appear before a judge for the first time Friday morning.