Deadly Indianapolis home explosion now criminal homicide investigation, source says

Police impound white van spotted near blast

INDIANAPOLIS - At least four people might have been involved in a deadly home explosion that is now being investigated as a homicide, a source told RTV6.

Investigators are looking for two men seen in a white van in the Richmond Hill subdivision hours before the Nov. 10 blast that killed two people and damaged dozens of home, the source told RTV6.

Special Section: Indy Explosion

A community meeting was called Monday night to update residents about the investigation, after which officials confirmed to the media that they believe the explosion was intentionally set.

"It has been a criminal investigation from day one," said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. "The fire investigators have ruled out any accidental cause, and obviously that confirmed that this is a criminal investigation."

Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering $10,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Curry said investigators are specifically looking for information about a white van seen in the neighborhood the day of the explosion, which a source told RTV6 had been impounded at a south side motel called the Cavalier's Resort, near Thompson Road and U.S. 31, a few days after the explosion.

RTV6 confirmed that Mark Leonard, the boyfriend of Monserrate Shirley, who owned the home that exploded, worked as grounds and security manager at the facility.

Shirley and Leonard lived in the home that exploded at 8349 FieldFare Way, along with Shirley's 12-year-old daughter. The couple was visiting a Lawrenceburg casino at the time of the blast.

A source told RTV6 there is surveillance video of the couple at the casino on the night of the explosion.

Their neighbors, John and Jennifer Longworth, were killed. Their funeral was held Monday.

Richmond Hill residents told RTV6 they are upset, but not surprised, about this latest turn in the investigation.

"They're mad. They're upset," said Doug Aldridge, head of the crime watch group in Richmond Hill. "This does not come as a surprise, because we thought that something like this was more than just an accident."

A criminal homicide investigation is right in line with the activity Aldridge said he's witnessed in his neighborhood since the explosion. He said his neighbors came together to reinstate the crime watch group just three weeks ago, and now they've had to come together in a different way.

"Tonight maybe closes one chapter," he said. "The healing process I think, with these residents in my neighborhood, it's just going to take weeks or maybe years."

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.

"There is a search for truth, and there is a search for justice," Mayor Greg Ballard told reporters.

Investigators said they have removed at least two dumpsters full of evidence from the neighborhood, which are being held at a secure site.

Curry said it could take weeks, or even months, to sift through that material, but that shouldn't impede the investigation.

"In terms of doing whatever exhaustive and complete work's necessary on the fire explosion site, does not necessarily coincide with the track for the criminal investigation," he said.

Watch RTV6 and refresh this page for updates.

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