INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WISH) – A man who was among five people convicted in a deadly Indianapolis house explosion was sentenced to three years.
Glenn Hults faced between six months and three years in prison before his sentencing Wednesday in Marion County. He was sentenced to three years: 1 1/2 years at DOC or jail, six months work release and one year of probation.
The 50-year-old pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal in the November 2012 house explosion that killed a couple who lived next door and damaged or destroyed more than 80 homes. Prosecutors say Hults and others plotted to destroy the house to claim $300,000 in insurance money.
The four other defendants have already been sentenced. The owner of the home destroyed by the blast, 51-year-old Monserrate Shirley, was sentenced last week to 50 years in prison.
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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry spoke Wednesday morning about the sentencing of the final Richmond Hill explosion suspect, Monserrate Shirley.
Shirley was sentenced to 50 years in prison after she pleaded guilty for her role in the deadly explosion.
Curry says his office introduced about 2,500 pieces of evidence during the trials of Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard Jr. Both received life sentences for their roles in the 2012 explosion that killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth.
During a news conference, Curry broke down the number of witnesses called to the stand in each trial. During the Mark Leonard trial 175 people were called to the stand. In his brother’s trial, Bob Leonard, Jr., 162 witnesses were called.
Mark Leonard’s trial was a total of six weeks while Bob Leonard’s lasted five weeks. Both trials were outside of Marion County. Mark Leonard’s trial was held in South Bend, 12 vehicles were used to transport staff, back and forth. During Bob Leonard’s trial four vehicles were used to transport staff back and forth.
Curry even broke down the cost of each trial. Mark Leonard’s cost $62,805, and $51,529 was spent on Bob Leonard, Jr’s. During the trials, Curry said his staff spent many nights in their hotels rooms hammering out the details of their presentations and perfecting power point presentations.
In the end, Curry says he was pleased with the support he received from Richmond Hill residents.
“We wanted to share our gratitude to the residents of Richmond Hill, they showed patience and willingness to be engaged in the process,” said Curry.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The final chapter in the Richmond Hill neighborhood explosion could come to an end on Tuesday. On Monday, former and current residents of the Richmond Hill neighborhood packed a courtroom. Dozens of residents took the stand to share how the 2012 home explosion impacted their lives.
The blast took the lives of Dion and Jennifer Longworth, and destroyed more than 80 homes. Prosecutors say the blast started with a scheme to get insurance money. Monserrate Shirley lived in the home where the explosion happened. She would later confess that her boyfriend Mark Leonard had developed an elaborate plan to blow up her home to collect insurance money. Shirley testified against Mark, and his brother Bob Leonard. Both brothers were later sentenced to life in prison.
Shirley admitted to be part of the planning process, but she did not rig the devices.
As part of a deal for testifying and admitting her role she faces between 20 and 50 years in prison or she could have her sentence suspended all together.
Those residents that took the stand on Monday asked a judge to give Shirley the maximum in prison which would be 50 years in prison. Shirley’s defense did remind the judge and the prosecution that Shirley’s testimony was crucial in helping to convict the Leonard brothers.
“We just wanted to get this over with because it has been so long; it’s been four years and finally we’re coming to an end, so we can put some kind of closure on this whole ordeal,” said Richmond Hill resident Doug Aldridge. “I mean the hurt and sorrow is still going to be with us, but it’s another step for, like I said, the healing process for the community.”
John Longworth told 24-Hour News 8, he is prepared for the judge’s decision. Longworth’s son Dion, and his daughter-in-law Jennifer Longworth were killed in the explosion. During a break in the hearing Longworth talked about forgiveness, and how he is dealt with the trials and hearings for the past four years.
“I base my life on Matthew 22: 36-40, which is that you love God with everything you have, and you love others as you love yourself, and that is how you go about life, you have to forgive others and let go of things,” said Longworth.
Tuesday will end Shirley’s hearings. We should learn the judge’s sentence on Tuesday afternoon. 24-Hour-News 8 will have an update shortly after the sentence comes down.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Richmond Hill residents said they took another step in the healing process when they learned of Bob Leonard’s sentencing.
Leonard, one of the suspects behind the deadly home explosion in 2012, was sentenced to two life sentences Friday.
Those we talked with in Richmond Hill were hoping Leonard would spend the rest of his life in prison. Whether that’s was a life sentence or multiple sets of years for each charge, they just wanted him put away for good so they could continue their long road to recovery.
“Every time we pass, you know, the Longworth’s lot, it makes me sad,” said Michelle Waddey, as she stood on her driveway looking across the street at the empty lots.
One of them that belonged to Dion and Jennifer Longworth, the couple who died after the home next door exploded.
“I’m blessed to have lived through that and there’s people that weren’t blessed to live through it and I want to just make sure that I say prayer for (Longworth’s) family you know that they’ll have some peace come about with the sentencing,” she said.
Charred debris remains scattered over the spot where the explosion occurred. But on the other side, a new home built late last year stands as a symbol of hope.
“It’s a step in the healing process for the whole neighborhood, but especially Fieldfare Way because it’s not so empty over here anymore,” she said.
Another step in that process happened away from the neighborhood in a court room, where Leonard was sentenced to life without parole. It’s the outcome Jennifer Longworth’s father, Don Buxton, wanted but it doesn’t make moving on any easier.
“The memories are still fresh and Bob Leonard’s sitting there, he might as well be waiting on a bus, he don’t care what’s going on,” Buxton said.
Waddey was also pleased with the sentence. But she knows with more trials ahead for the remaining suspects, she and her neighbors must remain focused on the end goal.
“The closer we can get to justice being served for all, the sooner that we can try to rebuild the neighborhood and rebuild our lives,” she said.
With one glance down her street, it’s clear that rebuild is well underway.
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.
- FULL COVERAGE | See dozens of stories related to the Richmond Hill explosion
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WISH) – Jurors will resume deliberations Wednesday morning, in the trial for 57-year-old Bob Leonard Jr. in Allen County.
Leonard is one of five people charged in connection to the deadly 2012 explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Indianapolis.
Jurors received the case after closing arguments Tuesday, and deliberated only about an hour before heading to a hotel where they’ll be sequestered until they return Wednesday to deliberate.
Bob Leonard Jr. is facing 51 counts in connection to the deadly 2012 explosion in a south side Indianapolis neighborhood, including multiple counts of murder, conspiracy to commit arson and arson.
Leonard could face life without parole if convicted on what prosecutors call “knowing” murder charges.
The explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood in November of 2012 killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth, and damaged or destroyed upwards of 80 homes.
In final arguments for the prosecution, Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth walked the jurors back through all the days of testimony they’d heard, all the witnesses they’d heard from, and all the evidence they’d seen. Hollingsworth worked to bring all that testimony together for the jurors.
“This was not an accident,” Hollingsworth told jurors.
“Bob Leonard was very much a part of the conspiracy,” he told them.
Hollingsworth also brought up the couple who died in the explosion, Dion and Jennifer Longworth, telling jurors, “Dion and Jennifer were very much alive before” this explosion. “They were human beings, and they did not deserve anything that happened to them.”
He added, “He [Dion] burned to death, because of that man [pointing at Bob Leonard] and his brother” and their co-conspirators.
Prosecutors say Leonard was part of the conspiracy to collect insurance money by setting a fire at Monserrate Shirley’s home in the Richmond Hill neighborhood. They say he aided in setting the explosion and was to receive $10,000 for his role. Hollingsworth walked jurors back through the multiple attempts they say were made to spark the explosion. He said the final attempt succeeded by removing a part of the gas system to Shirley’s home, removing a valve to the gas fireplace to allow gas to seep into the home, then setting the timer on a microwave and sparking the explosion with a cylinder inside.
“So who sets the microwave?” asked Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson asked the jury during the state’s rebuttal to the defense closing arguments.
“Who is hitting at 11 at night off the cell towers near 8349 Fieldfare Way? He is,” Robinson told the jury, pointing at defendant Bob Leonard.Prosecutors also say Bob Leonard’s DNA was found on the front door of Monserrate Shirley’s home, the epicenter of the explosion, and in multiple places throughout a white van that was seen at the home and at Leonard’s trailer. Leonard also talked about the explosion with other jail inmates, the prosecution said.
Hollingsworth also reminded jurors about the golf clubs from Monserrate Shirley’s home that were in Bob Leonard’s possession after the explosion, and the high-powered saw found in the white van they say Bob Leonard was driving. He reminded jurors that Bob Leonard’s cell phone was hitting off a tower near Richmond Hill in the days before the explosion.
Robinson and Hollingsworth also worked to explain to the jury what the state needed to prove in order to find Leonard guilty.
“Indiana law says a person who aids in an offense, commits that offense. It doesn’t distinguish between relative culpability of parties. It says if you aid, you’re guilty, just as much as everybody else. That’s what we were trying to stress to the jurors,” Robinson told reporters afterwards.
- FULL COVERAGE | See dozens of stories related to the Richmond Hill explosion
For two hours, defense attorney Ted Minch presented his closing statements. He told jurors the prosecution still hadn’t shown them a credible way of how Bob Leonard had participated in the conspiracy.
“What did he do?” Minch asked jurors. “What did the state or witnesses tell you Bob Leonard actually did?”
“In Mr Hollingsworth’s closing, he laid out all these things that went on over the course of a couple weeks as a part of the conspiracy, and there’s still been no actual evidence as to what Bob Leonard did. What credible evidence has been introduced as to what Bob Leonard actually did as part of the conspiracy? Yes we have these communications with other people such as Arthur Kirkpatrick, but what information did he actually illicit, and what information could be used as part of the conspiracy?” Minch explained to reporters afterwards.
Minch also worked to discredit the testimony from investigators, Monserrate Shirley and inmates during his closing arguments. He asked jurors to look over phone records, saying not everything added up. He brought up Monserrate Shirley’s testimony, saying she was testifying in order to receive a lesser sentence. Mark Leonard’s former girlfriend, Shirley, agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. She testified against both Mark and Bob Leonard.
“If she would say anything because Mark Leonard told her to… What would she say if her freedom was on the line?” Minch told jurors.
After the defense presented, the state was able to present a rebuttal.
Prosecuting attorney Denise Robinson told jurors, “Listen to the testimony, not from counsel who wants you to overlook.”
Robinson reminded jurors to be careful when analyzing the phone records. She also reminded them about the long periods of time Bob Leonard’s was transmitting nothing, meaning it was turned off or the phone was dead.
She also addressed Monserrate Shirley’s testimony, saying “all details of the investigation corroborate her testimony.”
Bob Leonard’s half-brother, Mark Leonard, was sentenced in summer of 2015 to two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Two other men charged in connection to the explosion, Gary Thompson and Glenn Hults, have jury trials set for June 2016.“We take it one day at a time”
The fathers of the victims, Don Buxton and John Longworth, also spoke with reporters after the case was given to the jury.
“My hopes are that Mr. Leonard will be found guilty on all counts. I’m prejudice – I’m Jenny’s dad,” explained Buxton. “That would be my best hope.”
“You don’t know what happens until the jury returns, but from having heard all the information twice now, it pretty much looks the same, so I expect the same results,” said John Longworth, Dion’s dad.
Longworth was in South Bend at Mark Leonard’s trial every single day.
“Three and a half years almost, it’s just part of life. It’s what it becomes,” said Longworth.
“He’s still with us, in our hearts, and so is Jennifer,” Longworth added. “I just hope people can see Dion in me, because I thought a lot of him.”
Buxton explained, he thinks about Jenny, a second-grade teacher, as he sits through parts of this latest trial.
ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – Bob Leonard’s defense team gave a short testimony in court on Friday morning and quickly rested their case.
The defense rested their case around 9:30 a.m. about a half hour after court started.
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.
- FULL COVERAGE | See dozens of stories related to the Richmond Hill explosion
Mark Leonard was sentenced in August to two life sentences and 75 years. The defense for his case only took about an hour to present its case and only called one witness.
Check back at WISHTV.com for updates on this story.
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.
- FULL COVERAGE | See dozens of stories related to the Richmond Hill explosion
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.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WISH) – Day five of testimony in the trial for Bob Leonard, Jr. is taking place right now in Fort Wayne.
Leonard is one of five people charged in connection with the deadly 2012 explosion on the south side of Indianapolis. His brother, Mark, was sentenced last year in South Bend to two life sentences without the possibility of parole, for his role in the Richmond Hill neighborhood explosion.
Prosecutors are working to prove that Bob Leonard Jr. helped his half brother, Mark, set an explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood in 2012, by filling Mark’s then-girlfriend’s home with gas then sparking the explosion. Prosecutors say it was all to gather insurance money.
During day five of testimony in Bob Leonard’s case, jurors heard difficult testimony.
- FULL COVERAGE | Richmond Hill explosion case
They heard from the two firefighters who tried to save victim Dion Longworth as he was trapped inside the basement of his burning home. They also heard some of the last recorded words from Dion Longworth. It was part of the audio recording from the security company, who called him when the house alarm went off.
Longworth asked the representative, “I think my house just blew up… Notify an ambulance,. fire, police… I need everybody… I need something.”
The representative asked him questions, and he responded, “I’m bleeding, please…. I can see outside but I can’t get outside. I’m trapped. I can see burning… I can see fire… I need help, I need help. I need help.”
Later he said, “Please hurry.” Then the phone disconnected from that conversation. There were others the jury did not hear.
Dion and Jennifer Longworth both died that night. Investigators say Jennifer died instantly, but Dion was trapped in the basement. Though firefighters and neighbors tried to save him, the fast-moving fire overcame them, and they could not get Dion out.“He repeated, it’s very hot… get me out of here”
Jurors heard from the two firefighters who worked with neighbors to try to rescue Dion. Lt. Dean Teagardin with the Indianapolis Fire Department told jurors when they arrived, the Longworth’s home was 70-80% engulfed, and neighbors ran up to them to let them know someone was trapped in the back of the home.
“We could hear him before we could see him,” said Private Richard Shirven, also with IFD.
Teagardin said ‘he was talking to us and asking us to rescue him.” He explained it was extremely hot, and they could see Dion, talk to him, they were close enough to touch him, but they could not get him out.
“He repeated, it’s very hot… get me out of here,” recalled Lt. Teagardin.
As the fire grew too hot and started to overtake the area, the firefighters had to retreat.“I kept thinking they were going to show up”
Dion’s father, John Longworth, also spoke to jurors about the night of the explosion. He said he received a phone call saying there had been some type of explosion on Fieldfare Way, and knowing that was where his son and daughter in law lived, “that bothered me so I pulled on my clothes, took off in my car and headed south.”
He described trying to get to the Richmond Hill neighborhood, and it was blocked off. He went to the school nearby, and found a police officer. He remembered, “They have lists of names, but they don’t have Jennifer or Dion on them.”
Longworth described going to multiple hospitals, trying to find them, then back to the school, then a church.
They waited, and waited.
“I kept thinking they were going to show up… Somehow just show up,” said Longworth.
Nancy Buxton, Jennifer’s mom, also took the stand.
She described getting a call from Dion’s dad John, explaining something had happened in their childrens’ subdivision. They went to the school, and waited. Finally they learned two bodies had been found.“Total darkness”
Glenn and Gloria Olvey lived with their two daughters on the other side of Monserrate Shirley’s home, the epicenter of the explosion. That night, they were all watching television when “all of a sudden, everything went dark,” explained Gloria.
“It felt like someone had turned on a giant fan with a heat source behind it,” said Glenn.
Neighbors came and had to help them out of their living room. Part of the roof had fallen onto Gloria’s lap, and she was trapped. She said neighbors pryed some of the wood off of her, and she managed to escape.
At first, they weren’t sure where one of their daughters was. Finally, they found her as well. Gloria needed 33 stitches, and they all suffered multiple injuries.
Prosecutors also asked Gloria about the day before. She said at one point, she’d heard a hissing noise coming from the Shirley’s home near the gas meter. She said it sounded like a mechanical-type hiss, but she didn’t smell anything or see anything else.
Watch WISH-TV at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a wrap-up of Thursday’s testimony.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WISH) – Testimony has begun in the second trial connected to the Richmond Hill explosion.
The 2012 blast killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth and destroyed or damaged dozens of homes in the south side Indianapolis neighborhood. Five people were charged in connection to the explosion.
A jury convicted Mark Leonard last year in South Bend, and he is currently serving two life sentences without parole in Michigan City.
The trial for his half-brother, Bob Leonard, Jr., was moved to Fort Wayne because of pre-trial publicity, to find an impartial jury. Twelve jurors and six alternates will hear the case.
Bob Leonard sat in a suit and tie across from jurors during the first day of trial. He sat quietly, speaking to his attorneys at times, writing things down periodically.
In opening statements Thursday, deputy prosecutor Denise Robinson set the scene for jurors, explaining who they will hear from over the next several weeks: neighbors, first responders, investigators. She explained they will hear from fire investigators about how this happened, and then from police investigators about who was involved.
“This was not an accident,” she told jurors. “What happened on November 10, 2012… was not a gas leak. It was an intentional explosion, and you will hear why.”
Robinson also explained more about Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard’s then-girlfriend, and how she will testify in the trial.
Shirley, agreed to testify against her co-defendants as part of a plea deal.
Prosecutors say Mark Leonard was the ringleader behind the plot to collect a $300,000 insurance policy, by blowing up the home of his then-girlfriend, Monserrate Shirley. They say Bob Leonard aided Mark in setting the explosion. Prosecutors argue the explosion was started by filling up the home with gas from a fireplace, and using a microwave with a timer to spark the blast.
Prosecutors also say Bob Leonard’s DNA was found on the front door of that home, and on a white van that was seen at the home before the explosion.
The state told jurors they will hear from about 150 witnesses throughout the trial.
Many will be the same witnesses called during Mark Leonard’s trial: countless neighbors, investigators, family members, and first responders who tried to save victim Dion Longworth. However, prosecutors say Bob Leonard’s role and the circumstances will make this trial different.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Ted Minch reminded jurors their verdict cannot be based on emotion.
Minch told them, what they will see, and hear about in the next several weeks, “a warzone, probably doesn’t do it justice.”
He said although the prosecution will explain what happened, and how it happened, he said to listen carefully about “who” was involved.
Minch did not reveal much about his team’s defense strategy. He mentioned Monserrate Shirley and her financial situation, and ended by telling jurors, “as emotional and as difficult as this evidence will be to hear, we ask you to keep your eyes open.”
He said, “Bob Leonard is not responsible for the acts you’re going to have to hear about.”
The first witnesses to take the stand Thursday were first responders, the first firefighters to arrive to the scene.
The trial could last through the beginning of March.