Judge delays ruling on police statements of Richmond Hill suspect Bob Leonard Jr.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Sept. 23, 2015)– Allen Superior Judge Frances Gull said she will rule by early October on whether statements Richmond Hill suspect Bob Leonard Jr., made to police before his arrest can be used in his upcoming trial.
Gull wrapped up two days of brief hearings on motions in a Fort Wayne courtroom.
Mark Leonard was convicted this summer and sentenced to life without parole on virtually the same evidence his half-brother faces for the fatal 2012 Indianapolis house explosion that killed two people in an insurance fraud scheme.
Ten days after that blast IMPD detectives raided the home of Bob Leonard, Jr., in Indianapolis’ Mars Hill community searching for items missing from the leveled home that Mark Leonard shared with Monserrate Shirley.
Shirley has pleaded guilty for her role in the plot and agreed to testify against her co-defendants.
On November 20, 2012, as officers searched Leonard’s house, he met with detectives as a witness.
Over the course of 45 minutes Leonard implicated his half-brother in other schemes and frauds, asked to speak with a lawyer and did not implicate himself in the murderous blast.
“We believe that he was in custody at the time he gave that statement,” argued defense attorney Ted Minch in asking Judge Gull to deny the prosecution any attempt to introduce the interview into Leonard’s trial early next year because his client’s Miranda rights were not recognized, “and that he unequivocally asked for counsel.”
Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson described the hearing as a procedural process since the State did not intend to introduce Leonard’s statement to the jury, “because there is no direct evidence from Bob Leonard against Bob Leonard in his statement that we would use at this time.”
Judge Gull will review the video of the Leonard interview.
“He wouldn’t stop talking,” said Robinson. “He said he wanted a lawyer but then he said he wanted to cooperate.”
Investigators told FOX59 News that Leonard said his half-brother gave him a set of golf clubs that were later determined to have been taken from Shirley’s house before the explosion as a gift, not, as the prosecutors claim, to hide.
Bob Leonard spent more time talking about Mark Leonard and his reputation as a con man, “that Mark scammed women, that Mark went to casinos and Mark engaged in insurance scams of vehicles,” said Robinson.
St. Joseph Superior Judge John Marnocha ruled during Mark Leonard’s trial in June that the statements would not be relevant as prosecutors were prepared to call the actual victims of the schemes during the sentencing phase.
Attending the hearing was John Longworth, father of Dion Longworth who died along with his wife Jennifer when the Shirley house blew up next door, who said that after sitting through the first trial, his apprehension level for the Bob Leonard, Jr., trial was lessened.
The trial of Bob Leonard, Jr., is set to begin January 19, 2016, and last five weeks.
While walking in shackles to court before the first day of his hearing, Leonard told reporters, “Ask the Tony Burnett witness if he saw this thing on Saturday.”
Leonard referred to his noticeable limp and whether a neighbor spotted it on November 10, 2012, when witnesses said they saw two men leaving Shirley’s house hours before the blast.
Tuesday marked the first time Leonard has walked with a limp before television cameras.
“I’ve had it for five years,” he said. “I’m not the person who was there.”
Investigators said they have DNA linking Bob Leonard to the blast.
Burnett told FOX59 News that Leonard is wrong to claim he is the witness who fingered him for investigators.
“I am 100 percent certain Bob Leonard is not one of the two people I saw,” Burnett said in an email that explained he backed away from an earlier partial identification of Leonard.
“When I saw him in person it was obvious that he was not the person,” wrote Burnett, “I had seen with the white van.”
Detectives found that the DNA of Bob Leonard in a white van owned by Mark Leonard that was seen at the Shirley house the afternoon of the explosion.
Gary Thompson is charged as the second man who allegedly helped Bob Leonard set a timer on a microwave oven that triggered the blast that leveled a house filled with natural gas.
Glenn Hults is accused of participating in the cover-up.