Marion County Prosecutor's Office asks for life without parole sentences in Richmond Hill explosion

3 face murder, arson charges

INDIANAPOLIS - The Marion County Prosecutor's Office has asked that three people charged in the deadly Indianapolis home explosion be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, and his brother, Robert Leonard, face two counts each of murder, one count each of conspiracy to commit arson, 33 counts each of arson, a Class B felony, and 12 counts each of arson, a Class A felony in the Nov. 10 explosion that killed two neighbors.

Special Section: Indianapolis Explosion

Prosecutors said the trio plotted to fill the couple's home with gas and ignite it using a microwave timer, killing neighbors John and Jennifer Longworth, leveling five homes and causing $4 million worth of damage in the neighborhood.

Prosecutor Terry Curry said the decision to seek life without parole was reached because an explosive device was involved, there were multiple deaths and that John Longworth died "as a result of direct contact with the fire."

"This decision was arrived at after thoughtful consideration in accordance with our procedure in potential capital cases," Curry said in a statement. "The intentional acts of the defendants, as alleged, were undertaken with no regard whatsoever to the tragic consequences which did in fact flow from a scheme to blow up the Shirley residence. Those alleged acts, if proven, thus justify that the defendants spend life in prison with no option for parole."

The death penalty was under consideration in the case, prosecutors had said.

In all potential capital punishment cases, Curry meets with a six-person committee.

In the Richmond Hill case, the evidence, the wishes of the victims' families, the cost and length of appeals were taken into consideration.

A 2010 state analysis said a life without parole case on average costs nearly $43,000 compared to a capital trial at nearly half a million dollars. The figures don't include the bills incurred from any appeals, which could last more than a decade.

Richmond Hill residents discussed the decision with Curry in a closed-door meeting at Southport Presbyterian Church Monday night.

One resident told RTV6 he thinks the choice to forego the death penalty is OK.

"I think we all have our own opinions, but I think life without parole is adequate, to say the least," said Matt Lennon. 

The prosecutor's office also filed a motion to add an additional count of felony arson against all three suspects for the damage to houses in the subdivision that did not require demolition.

They're also asking that an additional charge of insurance fraud be filed against Shirley, and a charge of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud against Shirley and Mark Leonard.

In a case unrelated to the explosion, Mark Leonard and David Gill have been charged with conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Prosecutors said the men conspired to submit an insurance claim for a stolen motorcycle, when they actually had disassembled the bike.

The three Richmond Hill suspects will appear in court Feb. 21.

Watch RTV6 and refresh this page for updates.

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