Probable cause suggests pattern of fraud, details inconsistencies
A 40-page probable cause affidavit released following the arrest of three suspects in the south side disaster suggests a pattern of fraud for profit and details several inconsistencies.
Homeowner Moncy Shirley; her boyfriend, Mark Leonard; and his brother, Bobby Leonard, Jr., were arrested Friday. More than 100 charges have been filed against them, including felony murder for the deaths of Jennifer and Dion Longworth, conspiracy to commit arson and arson. The charges filed made up 21-pages of the affidavit.
Witnesses interviewed by police said Mark Leonard has a history of swindling money out of women. He’s accused of painting himself as a wealthy and reputable person and then tricking women into loaning him money without any intention of ever paying them back. The alleged victims were typically older, the probable cause affidavit said. Witnesses said Shirley was purportedly okay with Mark Leonard’s alleged activities, so long as he didn’t sleep with the women.
Mark Leonard is accused of telling a witness that “the house blew up” on Nov. 2, one week before the deadly explosion. He reportedly said, “the tsunami winds came down the chimney, blew out the fire in the fireplace and the gas kept running and the house blew up.”
The witness said Leonard also talked about buying a Ferrari during that same conversation. When asked how he could get the money to afford it, Mark Leonard said Shirley had her jewelry insured and that they expected to get $300,000 in insurance money for it.
Sources told Fox59 that David Gill, a longtime associate of Mark Leonard’s, was seen with him both before and after the explosion. Gill has not been charged with any crimes but investigators said more charges could be filed in the coming weeks.
Gill’s ex-girlfriend was also interviewed as a part of the investigation. She told police that Gill was doing some renovations on her home when she ran out of money to complete the work, court documents said. She claims Gill told her she could burn the house down and collect insurance on it and that he had done it before successfully.
Following the explosion, Gill reportedly asked his ex for $500 for a lawyer. Gill has not been charged with any crimes.
Court documents said the couple’s actions that deadly weekend mirrored those the previous week. Mark Leonard and Shirley dropped Shirley’s daughter off at a babysitter’s house, boarded their cat with a groomer and spent the night at a casino.
Police said there were several inconsistencies in the suspects’ interviews, including how long the couple had been together, their history of boarding the cat and how long they gambled at the casino.
Shirley had said they were celebrating their anniversary the night of the blast and had met just a year prior, but police said they found a check made out to Mark Leonard and signed M. Shirley dated Jan. 2011.
Shirley told investigators she boards the cat whenever she leaves town because it is nervous and will vomit on the carpet, the probable affidavit said. She also said the cat gets a haircut each time it is boarded. Police said records indicated Shirley had boarded a cat for a few days back in 2004 but that their current cat had only been boarded the weekend of the explosion and the two weekends preceding it.
The cat was not given a haircut at any of the three groomers, court documents said. In the weeks following the explosion, one of the groomers also said Shirley and Mark Leonard asked that the receipt be changed to have a note that essentially said the grooming was requested but not performed.
Court documents said Mark Leonard told investigators that he and Shirley spent all of Nov. 10 gambling. Casino records showed Leonard gambled for nine minutes and Shirley played the slots for three minutes.
Several other discoveries were detailed in the probable cause affidavit including a conversation Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard, Jr., had with someone about natural gas the day before the explosion.
Mark Leonard’s other brother said the two of them had also participated in insurance frauds since 1995. One such incident in 2009 involved reporting a car stolen and then it subsequently being found burned up, the brother said.
The couple has maintained throughout the investigation that their furnace leaked in the weeks prior to the blast. They both said they replaced a $300 digital thermostat with a $16 slide switch thermostat. Mark Leonard said Shirley told him to switch them back but Shirley denies that.
A slide switch thermostat will produce a spark when a specific temperature is reached, investigators said. It is not believed to be the source of the ignition, though. Investigators believe a microwave with a programmable timer was the source.
The three suspects will appear in court for an initial hearing Monday morning.