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Three Arrested In Connection With Indianapolis Blast

Last updated on Saturday, December 22, 2012

(INDIANAPOLIS) - The Marion County prosecutor announced Friday that charges have been filed in connection with the fatal Richmond Hill explosion Nov. 10.

Monserrate Shirley, 47, owner of the home where the explosion occurred, her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, 43, and his brother, Bob Leonard, 54, were arrested Friday. Jail records show all three of them have each been charged with two counts of murder, along with dozens of charges of arson. All three have initial court appearances set at 10 a.m. Monday.

Mark Leonard has a lengthy criminal history.

The murder charges stem from the deaths of Dion and Jennifer Longworth .

Dozens of homes were irreparably damaged in the Nov. 10 blast caused by ignition of natural gas. Eight days later, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said the investigation had become a homicide investigation.

According to court documents, 12 Richmond Hill residents were injured in the blast, and damages to property in the area are estimated at $4 million.

Prosecutor details allegations against three

During Friday's news conference, Curry called the explosion a "thoroughly senseless act" and said that his office was committed to seeing that justice is done. He went on to detail highlights of the accusations against the three.

He said investigators believe the microwave oven, which had the capability to be set to start up to 24 hours in advance, was the point of ignition and had exploded from the inside.

He also noted no gas leaks in the lines were found, but the regulators that would have controlled the flow of gas had been removed, and the valve to the gas fireplace in the home was missing. Under those conditions, he said, it would take six to nine hours for the house to be filled with gas.

Curry said an acquaintance of Mark Leonard told investigators he had tried to blow up the house the weekend before but had failed. He noted that the Friday before the explosion, both Mark and Bob Leonard had spoken with a Citizen's Energy employee and asked about the differences between propane and natural gas and how much it would take to fill a house.

That failed attempt led to extra charges of conspiracy to commit arson for Shirley and Mark Leonard, Curry said.

Curry also said the insurance on personal property in the house had been increased to $450,000 shortly before the explosion.

The residents were out of town the night of the explosion on a trip to a casino. Among the details in the probable cause affidavit: Mark Leonard had reportedly lost about $10,000 at the casino about three weeks before the explosion.

Curry said his office would review whether to pursue the death penalty or life in prison without parole against the three.

Randall Cable, the attorney for Shirley and Mark Leonard, said he was stunned by their arrest.

"I'm just as surprised as everyone else that they've made an arrest. My clients have consistently indicated their innocence," he said.

Investigation ongoing

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said the investigation is continuing, and they are seeking a possible fourth suspect, a second person who was in a white van seen in the area.

Anyone with information should call IMPD, he said.

Homeowner claimed to be victim

In the days after the explosion, after finger-pointing at the residents of the home where the explosion occurred, who were out of town at that time, Shirley said they were victims, just like everybody else .

Costs pile up

The Indianapolis Department of Public Safety has said the cost of the response to the explosion and continuing investigation has already topped $300,000.

Thirty-one homes are on the list for demolition.

Neighbors react

DPS had a meeting scheduled with Richmond Hill residents Friday afternoon to address ongoing concerns. Neighbors said they were angry, relieved, and thankful. Some residents told 24-Hour News 8 they were angry after learning the alleged motive behind the explosion was to collect insurance money.

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