Week 4 in Richmond Hill explosion suspect Mark Ray Leonard's ongoing murder trial began with another setback for his defense team.
Lead defense attorney Diane Black tried to convince presiding Judge John Marnocha to allow into evidence testimony about an alleged affair Leonard's now ex-girlfriend Monserrate Shirley had with a doctor – one who she allegedly blackmailed for "hush money," the defense said.
Black said the jury needed to see the whole picture of who Monserrate Shirley is.
"Part of the state's presentation of this case is that she has no will of her own, can't manipulate a situation, and it clearly shows that she can manipulate a situation for financial gain," Black said.
Ultimately, Marnocha found Black's argument unpersuasive, ruling that jurors would not hear about the alleged affair.
The prosecution then called lead fire investigator Lt. Mario Garza back to the stand – this time to talk about his "origin and cause" report on the explosion.
Recalling testimony already heard in the trial, Garza briefly walked jurors through his process of eliminating possible causes of the explosion.
Garza also talked about a conversation with a witness, Mark Duckworth – the man Mark Leonard allegedly tried to hire a hitman to kill – and an alleged second conversation between Leonard and his brother Robert and a Citizens Energy employee at a bar prior to the explosion.
"Basically, Mr. Leonard and his brother were talking to an employee of Citizens Energy at a bar, and asking questions about how much gas it would take to blow up a house, and asking questions about a regulator," Garza said.
On cross-examination, the defense stuck largely to lines of questioning they'd already asked: Was any testing done on the exploded microwave found at the scene? Could investigators prove the source of ignition for the explosion? Did multiple possible ignition sources at the scene rule out a simple fire?
The answer to all three was no, Garza said.
Prosecutors then cycled quickly through remaining witnesses from IMPD and ATF, who testified mostly about their individual involvement in the investigation and their department's responsibilities.
One witness, IMPD Officer Randy Cook, did have new information. Cook told jurors he had interviewed Mark Leonard and Monserrate Shirley outside of Mary Bryan Elementary around 3 a.m. the night of the explosion.
Cook said the interview happened in his patrol car, with Leonard sitting up front and Shirley sitting in back. Leonard, he said, did most of the talking.
"[Leonard] said they had smelled gas in the house approximately a week, two weeks before that," Cook said. "They smelled it in the neighborhood. That they'd had problems with something and the thermostat had to be changed."
Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth questioned Cook on whether he asked Leonard anything about gas.
"He was just talking," Cook said. "I didn't ask him."
On cross-examination, Cook said Leonard also told him he'd heard there'd been a plane crash.
Monserrate Shirley herself had been expected to testify on Tuesday, but prosecutors said they thought she would now take the stand on Wednesday since other witnesses' testimony had been delayed.
Day 14 was instead expected to see jurors hearing from officials from the Indiana Gaming Commission and witnesses who can place Leonard and Shirley at the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg on the night of the explosion.