Judge in Richmond Hill explosion case to decide on separate trials, life without parole

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Marion County judge on the Richmond Hill explosion case will decide whether the three defendants charged in the case will be tried together, and if they could face life without parole.

Moncy Shirley, Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard each face at least fifty charges in the Nov. 10 explosion.  The list of charges includes felony murder, arson, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

Prosecutors charge that the three worked together to rig a microwave to set off a deliberate gas leak in Moncy Shirley’s home.

The explosion obliterated the house, and killed next door neighbors Dion and Jennifer Longworth.  It also injured several other people and damaged more than 80 homes.  More than 30 homes in the subdivision were eventually torn down.

Defense attorneys for Shirley and the Leonard brothers have filed a motion to dismiss life without parole in the case, which had been filed by prosecutors.

“It’s our argument that if you set an explosion of this magnitude, there’s a high probability that people are going to die,” said Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson.

Judge Sheila Carlisle will decide on the motion. She’ll also have to rule on a defense motion to hold separate trials for the three defendants. The prosecutor wants them tried together.

“That the defendants acted together, that they committed the crime together, and therefore they should be tried together,” Robinson said.

Defense attorneys have also indicated they plan to seek a change of venue for the trial, but haven’t filed for that yet.

Meantime, the prosecutor still has a large amount of evidence to compile before completing discovery. Robinson said her office is still waiting on lab reports from the the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms as well as other agencies. Thousands of pages, pictures and videos are also being organized.

The next pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 14.

The trial is scheduled to being June 16, 2014.