3 suspects in Richmond Hill explosion appear in court

Trio accused in deadly blast

INDIANAPOLIS - Three people accused in the deadly explosion at Richmond Hill subdivision on Indianapolis' south side appeared in court on Monday and pleaded not guilty before a Marion County judge. 

On Friday, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry formally named Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard and Robert Leonard suspects in the Nov. 10 blast that killed two people and damaged or destroyed dozens of homes in the subdivision.

All three were charged with two counts of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit arson, 33 counts of arson, a Class B felony and 12 counts of arson, a Class A felony.

The death penalty will be under consideration in the case. A committee will review the case after at least 30 days.

"We will review the circumstances," Curry said. "We will review their criminal histories of the individuals involved.  We will consider if there are any mental health issues. We will consider the range of appropriate considerations before we make a decision."

Curry said the source of the blast was a microwave oven and detailed what is included in the probable cause affidavit.

"The microwave oven … had exploded from inside out," Curry said. "The microwave oven was the point of ignition."

Additionally, a natural gas step-down valve into the home had been removed and a gas valve in the fireplace was missing, investigators said.

Without the valve, investigators said, it took six to nine hours for the house to fill with gas to reach the combustibility to cause an explosion.

"The flow of gas at that volume would have occurred beginning mid- to late afternoon to reach the volume of the explosion that happened at 11 p.m.," Curry said.

Curry said Bob Leonard and Mark Leonard told investigators that they had last seen each other Tuesday before the explosion, but investigators have surveillance video showing they were together Thursday and Friday.

Authorities believe that the the explosion was concocted in a financial scheme. The Call 6 Investigators uncovered details pointing to significant financial problems for the couple.

Shirley filed bankruptcy in 2007 with her then-husband, but that case was dismissed this June because they failed to make the required payments, documents show.

According to court documents, the home had two mortgages -- one for more than $160,000 and a second for nearly $65,000.

The 9-year-old home with four bedrooms and two and a half baths was put up for a short sale in March 2011, documents show.

The home was initially listed for $188,900, but the price was dropped to $154,900 four months later and to $149,900 in January, before it was taken off the market.

According to court documents, Mark Leonard was looking at Ferraris online the day after the blast and had told someone that he might buy one with his portion of the insurance money.

All three defendants are being held without bond. A jury trial date was set for March 4. 

 

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