INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Three people charged in a gas
explosion that devastated an Indianapolis neighborhood deliberately set
up the deadly blast to collect a big insurance payout, authorities said
owner, Monserrate Shirley; her boyfriend, Mark Leonard; and his brother,
Bob Leonard, were arrested Friday and charged with murder, arson and
other counts in the Nov. 10 blast that killed two people.
was facing mounting financial woes, including $63,000 in credit card
debt and a growing threat she might lose her home amid bankruptcy
proceedings, court documents say. And a friend of Mark Leonard's told
investigators Leonard said he had "lost a ton of money" — about $10,000
— at a casino some three weeks before the explosion.
Investigators believe the trio had actually tried but failed to blow up
Shirley's home the weekend before the successful timed explosion,
according to Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. The fiery blast
destroyed five homes, including Shirley's, and caused widespread damage
to dozens of others in the Richmond Hill subdivision in the far south
side of the city.
the explosion a "thoroughly senseless act" that killed Shirley's
next-door neighbors. He said the victims, John Dion Longworth, a
34-year-old electronics expert, and his 36-year-old wife, second-grade
teacher Jennifer Longworth, were "in the prime of their lives."
Cable, the attorney for Shirley and Mark Leonard, said he was stunned by
"I'm just as
surprised as everyone else that they've made an arrest. My clients have
consistently indicated their innocence," he said.
the Leonard brothers face two counts of murder as well as 33 counts of
arson — one count for each of the homes damaged so badly that officials
have ordered their demolition.
his office would review whether to pursue the death penalty or life in
prison without parole against the three, who are scheduled to appear in
Mark Leonard, 43, also face two counts of conspiracy to commit arson,
while Bob Leonard, 54, faces a single count. Curry said the conspiracy
charges stem from the failed explosion.
investigators determined that Shirley's home filled up with gas after a
gas fireplace valve and a gas line regulator were removed. A microwave,
apparently set to start on a timer, sparked the explosion, he said.
workers using heavy equipment were removing debris from razed homes in
Aldridge, the head of the Richmond Hill's crime watch group, said after
a neighborhood meeting that the allegations are "more than we
money makes people do stupid stuff," Aldridge said.
Investigators found that in December 2011, Shirley's home insurance
policy for personal property was increased to $304,000 — an amount that
was in addition to the coverage for the home itself, according to court
cause affidavit says Shirley filed for bankruptcy this year but stopped
making her court-arranged payments and failed to appear at a July
bankruptcy hearing. The home's original loan was for $116,000 and a
second mortgage was taken out on the home for $65,000, the affidavit
A friend of
Mark Leonard's also told investigators that Leonard would surf online
dating sites "and located older, heavier women, wine and dine them,"
then borrowed money and never paid them back, according to the
said Shirley was aware of the scheming "and was OK with it so long as he
did not sleep with the women," the affidavit says.
a criminal record that includes stalking and intimidation and
convictions on dealing and possessing cocaine, according to prison
Two men, one
fitting Bob Leonard's description, were seen at Shirley's home the day
of the explosion, and Curry indicated investigators believe that's when
the gas line and valve were tampered with. He said authorities are still
trying to determine the second man's identity.
that the day before the blast, the brothers asked an employee of local
gas utility Citizens Energy several questions, "including the
differences between propane and natural gas, the role of a regulator in
a house and controlling the flow of natural gas and how much gas it
would require to fill a house."
Shirley and her boyfriend had followed the same pattern two weekends in
a row, visiting a southern Indiana casino, dropping off Shirley's
daughter with a baby sitter and boarding the family's cat.
says that when a friend of Mark Leonard's called him Nov. 2, eight days
before the successful blast, Leonard told the friend "the house blew up"
and that he and Shirley were staying in an efficiency apartment.
call that day, Leonard told his friend he had been surfing Craigslist
"looking for a Ferrari to buy" and explained that he could afford the
luxury car because Shirley had jewelry insurance and "they expect to get
$300,000 and he would get $100,000" in the insurance payout, according
to the affidavit.
clear whether investigators think Leonard believed the first explosion
attempt had succeeded. Curry's spokeswoman, Brienne Delaney, said the
office could not comment beyond what was in the court documents.
after the explosion, Bob Leonard allegedly called his son and asked him
to retrieve from a white van items he said he had salvaged from
Shirley's home after the blast.
course, is impossible because everything in the house was destroyed,"
Curry said. "Plus no one was allowed access to the property after the