SOUTH BEND, Ind. (July 7, 2015)– An analyst from the Marion County Forensic Services Agency told jurors in the Richmond Hill case that the DNA of a key co-conspirator was discovered on the front door of the house of Monserrate Shirley and in a van owned by her boyfriend and double murder suspect Mark Leonard.
Bob Leonard, Jr., is accused of carrying out his half-brother’s wishes in setting a timer to explode in Shirley’s natural gas filled house at 8349 Fieldfare Way on November 10, 2012.
He’s also accused of driving Mark Leonard’s white Ford 250 cargo van away from the house in the hours before the blast and transporting some of Shirley’s personal items in order to save them from destruction.
Tanya Fishburn also testified she found Mark Leonard’s DNA on a letter written from inside the Marion County Jail in March of 2013 that put in motion the attempted murder of a witness in the case.
Today would have been the 14th wedding anniversary of Jennifer and Dion Longworth, the couple that died that Saturday night, when their neighbor’s house in the Richmond Hill community exploded in an insurance fraud scam.
As he has done every day for the last month, John Longworth sat in the second row of wooden benches in St. Joseph Superior Judge John Marnocha’s courtroom listening to testimony against the man accused of putting in motion the conspiracy that killed his son and daughter-in-law.
And as he has done every day for the last month, Mark Leonard sat at the defense table, flanked by his court appointed attorneys, and listened as prosecutors representing the State of Indiana described for a South Bend jury how greed and poor planning and intimidation caught up five people and an entire south side neighborhood in the largest and most complex murder trial in Indianapolis history.
Various employees for State Farm Insurance described how Shirley boosted her homeowner’s insurance coverage to $300,000.
When Leonard and Shirley were interviewed separately at their agent’s office, their answers didn’t always add up, said investigators.
Leonard maintained that a pair of damaged vehicles were in excellent condition, but claims adjusters turned down payments for both the Cadillac and the Harley Davidson motorcycle left in the debris of the home.
“This car was in the process of being parted out,” testified Ed Nightingale, a forensic mechanic who was hired to exam the wreckage of the vehicles. “This Cadillac was undrivable prior to the explosion.”
When asked about the Cadillac CTS during testimony Monday, Mark Duckworth, a witness Leonard is accused of trying to have killed, told jurors that his friend, “curbed it coming from That Place bar and smoked the front end, one of the tires, and it was dragging.”
Nightingale testified that the Street Glide Harley appeard to have also been involved in an accident before the explosion and the handlebar had been removed.
Duckworth knew about the Harley, too.
“He dropped it at a neighbor bar with this chick on the back of it doing a burn out and he dumped it,” the witness testified.
An insurance investigator told jurors that when Leonard was asked about the finances of the Shirley household, he answered, “What’s mine is hers. What’s hers is mine.”
Last week, Shirley testified that when a co-conspirator asked Leonard who would get the payout from the insurance company after the blast, her boyfriend answered, “Of course me because I always get the money.”
After the jury was dismissed for the day, Defense Attorney Diane Black told Judge Marnocha that she had been unsuccessful Monday in introducing evidence about the origin of the friendship between Duckworth and Leonard.
Black said that Duckworth operated a “Chippendales Troupe” of male dancers in the late 1990s and took Leonard under his wing when he hired him to be an entertainer.
The Defense wanted to introduce evidence that would portray Duckworth as the more successful of the two men who looked out for Leonard.
During testimony Monday, Duckworth was asked if he and Leonard were friends.
“I thought we were,” he answered, adding that the day before the explosion Leonard signed off with a phone call, “I love you.”
Duckworth said the former friends haven’t spoken since the days after the blast.
“Tomorrow we finish up with core samples and the gasoline in the house, which the jury’s heard about, the witnesses from Menards, the Old Meridian Pub, Gaslight Inn,” Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson told reporters outside the St. Joseph County Courthouse, listing evidence of accelerant poured on the floor of the house and witnesses who will testify about a previous attempt to swap out a digital thermostat for an analog model to spark the explosion and a witness who said the Leonard brothers asked him about filling a house with natural gas.
“They know that those individuals have information about Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard in the days just up to the explosion and then we end with Detective Wager concluding the investigation,” Robinson said.
Once the State rests its case, the Defense has a half-day worth of testimony Thursday before Judge Marnocha is expected to give the jury the long weekend off to prepare for closing arguments Monday.