LIVE BLOG: Defense, prosecution make opening statements in Bob Leonard trial

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- The prosecution and defense delivered opening statements Thursday as the trial of Bob Leonard got underway. He's accused of conspiring with his brother to blow up a house in the Richmond Hill neighborhood 2012, killing two people.

9:00 a.m. – Judge Frances Gull enters courtroom.

9:05 a.m. – Jury enters.

9:08 a.m. – Video recording of Gull reading charges against Bob Leonard begins playing.

10:12 a.m. – Video ends.

10:20 a.m. – Court takes brief recess.

10:44 a.m. – Court resumes.

10:45 a.m. – Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson begins her opening statements:

"Nov. 10 of 2012 was one of those days that makes us as Hoosiers kind of forget about the upcoming winter.

It was unseasonably warm, and neighbors in the Richmond Hill subdivision were out doing what neighbors do.

It got to 11 o'clock at night. People were in bed. Some were getting ready for bed.

Just a little bit after 11 o'clock at night, their lives forever changed.

What happened was an explosion that was felt throughout Indianapolis. That was felt in neighboring counties.

You'll hear some testimony that, given the nature of the explosion, they couldn't originally tell what had happened. You'll hear that people thought initially maybe a plane had crashed.

*Robinson walks jurors through layout of Richmond Hill subdivision using a large print-out map.*

When they responded to the scene, 8349 Fieldfare Way was no longer there. Some of the firefighters couldn't even tell there'd been a home there.

When you think about this trial, breaking down over six weeks, first you'll hear from firefighters so you can understand what happened when they responded. Then you'll hear from the residents.

The second part of the trial will be expert witnesses. It's important for you to understand, and for the State to prove that this was not a gas leak. What happened on Nov. 10, 2012, was not an accident. It was an intentionally set explosion.

The third part of the trial is the actual fire investigation itself. How did we rule out an accident? And so you'll hear from the actual fire investigator. You'll see that this was not setting the house on fire and the fire spread to 1-2 other houses. This was much, much more.

We've talked about 8349 Fieldfare Way. Well who was at 8349 Fieldfare Way? You've heard the name Monserrate Shirley. On Nov. 10, 2012, she lived at that house with her boyfriend Mark Leonard. Mark Leonard is the brother of the defendant here, Bob Leonard.

One of the things you'll hear is that on the night of the explosion, Mark Leonard and Monserrate Shirley were at a casino on the Ohio River. Well if this was intentionally set, how did that happen when they were at a casino? All of that will be presented to you."

11:04 a.m. – Robinson: "There are numerous counts because of the effects of the explosion. But you can take all those charges and break them into categories. The first is conspiracy to commit arson. The second is arson, and that's the bulk of the other counts. The third is felony murder. And the fourth is knowing murder.

You will not hear the State allege that when this explosion was set the defendants intended to kill John and Jennifer Longworth, or in fact intended to kill anyone. But they acted with a high probability of doing so."

11:09 a.m. – Robinson: "If you think about this case as a wall of bricks – going back to fire investigation, that's a brick in the wall. The witness testimonies you'll hear are bricks. The motive and corroboration is kind of the mortar in this case that holds the wall together."

11:14 a.m. – Prosecutors end their opening statements.

11:15 a.m. – Defense attorney Ted Minch begins his opening statements:

"As we discussed in voir dire (jury selection), this is not an easy process.

There is no doubt of one thing in this case, and that is: You are going to hear and see things you never thought you'd hear and think about in your life. But your verdict can't be based on emotion.

Over the first part of the trial, I believe the evidence the State will present to you will be the 'What.' What happened at 8349 Fieldfare Way?

You're going to hear from neighbors who saw things they probably never thought they would in their life. Destruction and death. Describing it as a warzone probably doesn't do it justice.

Then you'll move into 'How.' How did it happen? How was it planned? How was it set in motion?

I want you to pay attention, which I know you will, because the State is going to introduce some strict timelines.

You're going to hear from neighbors about what and who they saw at 8349 Fieldfare Way.

Finally, we're going to get into the 'Who.' You're going to hear about Monserrate Shirley. You're going to her from her. You're going to hear about financial problems she had that were maybe part of the 'Why.'

As emotional and as difficult as this evidence will be to hear, we ask you to judge the evidence fairly and critically, and we ask you, after you've heard the evidence, to return a 'not guilty' verdict for Bob Leonard, because Bob Leonard was not responsible for the acts in this case."

11:25 a.m. – Defense finishes opening statements.

11:25 a.m. – State calls 1st witness: IFD Lt. Russell Futrell.

Futrell testifies he's been with department for more than 25 years. He was working at the fire station nearest Richmond Hill on Nov. 10, 2012, when the explosion occurred.

11:31 a.m. – Futrell: "I heard a loud boom. It was something that was just an enormously loud explosion. I had no idea what it was. My first thought was maybe an airplane."

"I stood up and looked out a window. I saw a large plume of smoke. Just an enormous amount of debris and smoke in the air."

11:36 a.m. – Futrell: "I at that point walked through the firehouse and outside. I confirmed what I had seen before, which was a large plume of smoke."

"I prepared to do something I'd never done in my career before, which was self-dispatch. 99.99% of the time we're dispatched to a scene, but I wasn't going to wait around."

11:41 a.m. – Futrell: "We saw a lot of people walking in the streets. You had people who were kind of gesturing to us, you know, that way."

11:47 a.m. – The State enters the first pieces of evidence into the trial: 18 photographs from the night of the explosion.

11:50 a.m. – Futrell: "The area was, for all intents and purposes, completely flattened. I did not know if the debris was from these two homes that were probably 50% gone in their own right."

"On our arrival there was very little fire. The fires that we did see were gas-fed fires from the three houses. Because of the unprotected wood, I knew in quick time we were going to be dealing with something substantial."

11:59 a.m. – Futrell: "We established there was a woman trapped inside [the Olvey residence] in what we call a 'pancake.' The house was partially collapsed, and she was trapped in that void space. Their gas meter was one of the ones that was on fire, so I knew we had to act quickly."

12:01 p.m. – Futrell says a Lawrence firefighter who happened to live in the neighborhood was at the Olvey house and helped IFD pull the family members out of the rubble. One of the Olvey daughters told Futrell she had smelled gas in the area recently.

12:20 p.m. – Court recesses for lunch.

1:37 p.m. – Court resumes session.

1:38 p.m. – Mark Culver, IFD battalion chief, called as witness by the prosecution.

1:38 p.m. – Culver: "I woke up to what felt like a vibration in my room and a noise."

Culver said his engine was dispatched to the Richmond Hill subdivision shortly after the explosion.

"When we entered into the subdivision, at first I didn't realize what was going on. The whole neighborhood was out walking – in shock, I guess."

"We thought at first maybe a plane crashed. But as we worked it, we got signs that something had exploded."

1:54 p.m. – Culver: "I saw (IFD) Lt. Teagarden on the ground talking to a victim. The house was basically collapsed, and he was trapped. I heard him talking. Of course, he wanted to get out. I started asking for resources to get around back. But within a few minutes the fire had spread."

1:57 p.m. – Prosecutors enter an audio recording of radio traffic from the night of the explosion into evidence.

Audio: "Command, we've got a man trapped here in the back! We need the hoses back here now to get him out!"

Audio: "For God's sake, I need a hose line, ASAP!"

Audio: "I'm on a street called Alcona and we have extensive damage back here. We've got a lot of people panicked."

2:07 p.m. – Audio recording ends.

2:08 p.m. – Culver says when he arrived the second floor of the Longworth home was gone. Firefighters were unable to suppress the fire in the home. Culver eventually had to pull the firefighters who were trying to save Dion Longworth back.

2:10 p.m. – Defense asks Culver about statement made during deposition about smelling gasoline. Culver says two vehicles had been damaged by fire and were leaking gas.

2:12 p.m. – Culver dismissed as witness.

2:14 p.m. – Ada Townsend called by State as witness. Townsend testifies that she is an audio records technician for the Marion County Sheriff's Office. Townsend says she handles requests for recordings for 911 calls made in Marion County.

2:24 p.m. – Townsend says approximately 282 calls were made to 911 in reference to the Richmond Hill Explosion.

2:36 p.m. – Prosecutors begin playing a recording of dozens of 911 calls made that night.

Audio: "The whole house just shook really badly. I don't know what just happened."

Audio: "Something hit my house really, really hard. I don't know what. I'm not going outside."

Audio: "Attention all units: Possible plane crash near Stop 11 and Southport Road."

Audio: "I've heard cars blow up. I've heard dynamite blow up. I've never heard anything like this. It sounded like a gas station blew up or one of those natural gas tanks people have."

2:58 p.m. – Audio recording ends. Townsend dismissed as a witness.

3:10 p.m. – Court recesses for a break.

4:05 p.m. -- Laura Littlepage, 4003 Towhees Drive, an IUPUI professor, called as a witness by the prosecution.

4:15 p.m. – Littlepage: "I heard the loudest noise I'd ever heard in my life."

4:16 p.m. – Littlepage and her husband had to clear broken class in the hallway to get to her mother-in-law, who was staying in a room down the hall. Husband ran over to check on elderly neighbor, who was knocked out of bed by the blast, but physically OK.

4:20 p.m. – Littlepage describes pushing her elderly mother-in-law in her battery-powered wheelchair (the battery had died) in their nightgowns to her sister's house.

4:22 p.m. – Littlepage dismissed as a witness.

4:23 p.m. – Bryan Baker, 8342 Flicker Court, called as a witness by the State.

4:24 p.m. – Baker, a firefighter/paramedic with White River Township, says he "heard a loud explosion and our house shook."

4:28 p.m. – Baker says he forced his garage door open to free his vehicle. "When I rounded the corner there were parts of a house – insulation, drywall – all over the street already."

4:34 p.m. – Baker dismissed as a witness.

4:35 p.m. – Janet Lindgren called as a witness by the State.

4:37 p.m. – Lindgren: "There was a horrific explosion. I didn't know what it was, but it felt like a bomb. You could feel a pressure. It was very frightening. It felt like an atomic bomb or some kind of huge bomb. Very scary."

4:40 p.m. – Lindgren: "One of the fire chiefs yelled, 'Everyone get back to your houses. We don't know what happened yet. There might be another explosion.'"

4:44 p.m. – Lindgren says her dog has never slept on top of the bed ever since the explosion. It only sleeps under the bed.

4:46 p.m. – Lindgren dismissed as a witness.

4:55 p.m. – Michael Ampil, Richmond Hill resident, called to the witness stand. Ampil tells the jury he was at a wedding reception with his wife when the explosion occurred.

5:00 p.m. – Ampil: "My wife got a call that there was an explosion, and there was a fire."

Ampil says he and his wife were unable to get back into the neighborhood and their children due to the explosion. Eventually reconnected with them and in-laws, who were watching them.

5:09 p.m. – Ampil dismissed as a witness.

5:10 p.m. – Ninette Larouche, 8325 Flicker Court, called as a witness by the State.

5:13 p.m. – Larouche: "While we were watching a movie, there was an extremely loud boom and I felt the house shake."

Larouche says she ran upstairs to check on her kids, but that they'd slept through the explosion.

Larouche: "People were speculating that a plane had crashed and all sorts of things."

5:19 p.m. – Larouche dismissed as a witness.

5:21 p.m. -- Amanda Graphman, 8312 Flicker Court, called to the witness stand.

5:23 p.m. – Graphman: "We heard a very loud noise. My husband and I jumped out of bed. We thought it might be a transformer. We saw the sky lit up, like fire."

5:26 p.m. – Graphman dismissed as a witness.

5:26 p.m. – Prosecution witnesses conclude for the day.

5:28 p.m. – Court adjourns for the day. Jurors told to report back at 8:45 a.m.

 

Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez and Senior Digital Correspondent Jordan Fischer will be in Fort Wayne covering the trial every day. Download the RTV6 app to get the latest live blog posts as the proceedings unfold.

FOLLOW | Rafael Sanchez on Twitter | Jordan Fischer on Twitter

RELATED LINKS | Richmond Hill Special Section |  Mark Ray Leonard convicted on all counts

PREVIOUS | Timeline of events | Gallery: The Richmond Hill Explosion | Where were you at 11:11 PM?

INTERACTIVE MAP | Residents relive Richmond Hill explosion

 


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