(AP) — A decision is expected within six weeks on whether to seek the
death penalty against the three people charged with causing the deadly gas
explosion that devastated an Indianapolis neighborhood and killed a
couple, a prosecutor said.
penalty review team made up of Marion County prosecutor's office staffers
will review the case and make a recommendation, Prosecutor Terry Curry
told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/RlmCZD
) for a story Friday. Curry said he hoped to make that decision before a
Feb. 12 court hearing.
homeowner Monserrate Shirley; her boyfriend, Mark Leonard; and his
brother, Bob Leonard, were charged with murder, arson and conspiracy
counts in the Nov. 10 blast that killed a couple living next to Shirley's
Curry said he
would talk with relatives of the explosion victims — 34-year-old John Dion
Longworth and his wife, 36-year-old Jennifer Longworth — before making a
important that we share this with the families," he said. "They need to
know this can be a 12- to 20-year ordeal before they get closure."
say Shirley and the Leonard brothers deliberately blew up Shirley's home
so they could collect the insurance payout. The fiery blast destroyed five
homes and damaged dozens of others in the Richmond Hill subdivision on the
city's far south side.
was facing mounting financial woes, including $63,000 in credit card debt
and bankruptcy proceedings, court documents say. And a friend of Mark
Leonard's told investigators that Leonard said he had lost about $10,000
at a casino some three weeks before the explosion.
lawyer, Randall Cable, said he believed Shirley was "targeted" by
investigators and that there shouldn't be a rush to judgment.
"It seems to
me they announced charges prematurely," Cable said. "As I understand it,
some of the evidence they have is still in the lab. It takes a long time
for that stuff to come back."
an Indianapolis defense attorney who has handled death penalty cases, said
that seeking the death penalty would make the prosecution more expensive.
they would be tried separately," Kammen said. "And then there is a good
chance a change of venue could be sought. So we could have three trials in
three counties. All that together would drive up the expenses
Indiana Supreme Court records, three death penalty cases were filed
statewide in 2012, one in 2011 and three in 2010. That compares with 26
death penalty case filings in 1990 and 22 in 1991.
requires prosecutors seeking the death penalty or life in prison to cite
at least one "aggravating factor," such as multiple people killed in a
crime or a murder happening during the commission of another crime.
"We will be
taking an in-depth look into the case itself, but also the profiles of
those charged," Curry said. "The decision will be based on facts and not
public opinion or notoriety."