Applause mixes with anger as Richmond Hill residents learn of arrests in deadly explosion

Residents plan to pack courtroom

INDIANAPOLIS -  

Neighbors describe anger, relief and even a festive response after hearing that three arrests had been made for the explosion that changed their lives.

“These are celebration cookies,” said one Richmond Hill resident as she arrived with a plate full of holiday sweets to hear police detail their case in a private church meeting.

Church organizers estimated that 75 residents of the Richmond Hill subdivision gathered at that church, breaking into applause as the 45-minute briefing drew to a close.

Special Section: Indy Explosion

Resident Doug Aldridge, who attended that meeting with police, said the applause was well-deserved for the investigators who cracked the case.

“They put on a heck of an investigation. You’ve got the…charges. That’s a lot to do in 41 days,” he said. “Today’s news didn’t come as a surprise. The emotions are up and down. There’s joy, there’s sorrow and there’s anger.”

For others, the charges and the specific details that emerged from the investigation were unsettling. 

Nathan Rodgers, whose family escaped injury in the explosion, said, “It was believable but at the  same time it’s still just unbelievable how it all went down.”

He was most troubled by prosecutors spelling out that the three suspects actually started spilling natural gas into the house up to nine hours before the blast.

“It’s just scary because someone can plan these things and do something like this behind the scenes and it can just build up while everyone’s just here living their normal lives, just thinking everything’s fine and then all of a sudden, it’s chaos,” Rodgers said.

At the church meeting with investigators, Aldridge said many were also bothered by prosecutors revealing that the trio had actually tried to blow the house up the weekend prior to the deadly blast. Their first attempt failed.

“That part of the information came as a very, very big surprise to the neighborhood….what I had said earlier, the anger,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge called that revelation “very troubling.”

As one Richmond Hill resident heard news of the arrest from Call 6 Investigators she shouted, “It was all about money?” She then shook her head and returned to her home.

Even closer to the house that exploded, Jeff Cross said his 5-year-old daughter still mentions fears about the night of the explosion, which she refers to as “the bomb.”

 “When I first heard about it….it was a lot of anger for some reason, but now it’s just becoming more of a sense of relief,” Cross said.

Cross said that he and his neighbors would like to pack the courtroom as all three suspects make their appearances. 

“I’m sure it will be a pretty crowded courtroom…we will all be watching this very closely,” he said.

He and other neighbors kept recounting how two people died in the blast.  

“Lives were lost for senseless reasons, money, money issues,” he said.

When asked what he would say to the three people now sitting in jail charged with murder and a list of other crimes, Cross said, “Do you realize how many lives you have affected?

“I would probably say to them, 'I hope you can live with yourself for what you’ve done.' And that’s probably the kindest way I can put it."

Several more homes were torn down by demolition crews throughout the day as residents heard the news of the arrests.

Rodgers, whose home has been repaired, said, “It’s nice to get some closure, actually to pretty much know what happened and how it was done, that they actually did it, it brings a little bit of relief to you to know.”

Others tended to shy away from the word "closure," saying the destroyed homes, the vacant lots where homes used to stand and the emotional trauma all make recovery a slow process.

At the church, Aldridge said of the arrests, “It’s the next step of getting our lives back together. I don’t want to say it’s bittersweet information going into the holidays, but this is something that we’ve been hoping that we’d hear.”

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