Jury sees key Richmond Hill evidence in Bob Leonard Jr. trial

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Feb. 3, 2016)-- Prosecutors introduced the first pieces of evidence they hope will convince a jury in Fort Wayne that Bob Leonard Jr. blew up a house on Indianapolis’ south side in 2012.

Leonard is accused of setting a microwave oven timer that triggered the natural gas blast in the Richmond Hill community that killed two people and caused more than $4 million in losses.

Investigators donned gloves to carry boxes of evidence into the Allen County courtroom of Judge Frances Gull.

Jurors saw doors off the home of Monserrate Shirley, remnants of her microwave oven and a thermostat that prosecutors will argue was part of an earlier failed attempt to destroy the house.

Former Marion County Crime Scene Analyst Lisa Liebig testified that she swabbed the front and storm doors of Shirley’s house for DNA evidence.

Next week, Marion County Forensic Analyst Tonya Fishburn is expected to tell jurors that traces of Leonard’s DNA were found on the doors and on a white Ford van that neighbors saw at Shirley’s house on the day of the explosion in a repeat of testimony she gave at the trial of Mark Leonard, the lead conspirator, in South Bend last summer.

Shirley, who faces reduced charges as part of her agreement to take the stand against her former boyfriend and his half-brother, is also expected to testify next week.

Mark Leonard was pronounced guilty more than 50 times by a St. Joseph Superior Court jury and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

His half-brother faces the same fate if convicted.

Investigators contend Bob Leonard Jr. entered the Shirley home while Mark Leonard and his girlfriend were at a southern Indiana casino and set a delay timer on the microwave oven, which contained an aluminum canister, to detonate some ten hours later after the house was intentionally filled with natural gas.

Jurors were shown the control panel of the oven which contained a delay start button.

Bob Leonard Jr. previously told FOX59 News during a telephone interview from inside the Marion County Jail that the oven did not have a delay start mechanism.

The jury was also shown photographs of a fireplace burner and piping that were discovered mangled in the wreckage of the Shirley home.

Detectives determined a valve attached to the fireplace log lighter was intentionally removed to allow gas to flow freely into the house for several hours.

Shirley is expected to tell the jury that the Leonard brothers replaced a digital thermostat at her home in the weeks before the explosion with an analog model during an earlier failed attempt to trigger the fire with a spark.

She also testified previously that the Leonard brothers met the afternoon before the explosion to firm up Bob’s role in setting the timer inside the empty home the following day.

This week jurors also heard from John Shirley, the former husband of Monserrate Shirley, who identified a set of golf clubs he had left behind at 8349 Fieldfare Way after the couple’s divorce.

Soon jurors will learn that those clubs, and some of Mark Leonard’s personal items, were discovered after the explosion at Bob Leonard’s house on the southwest side of Indianapolis.

The jury also saw a demonstration video created by an arson investigator from St. Paul, Minnesota, Jamie Novak that portrayed an explosion in a microwave oven similar to the method which prosecutors claim detonated the Richmond Hill blast.

Killed in the explosion were neighbors Dion and Jennifer Longworth.

Dion’s father John Longworth was in attendance at today’s hearing.

The trying of the case before Judge Gull has been less contentious and more efficient than the trial of Mark Leonard in Judge Steven Marnocha’s South Bend courtroom last year.

Judge Gull and the attorneys have freely relied upon Judge Marnocha’s previous rulings to guide this case.

While Shirley’s eventual sentence will be determined by her level of cooperation with prosecutors, two other accused conspirators, Glen Hults and Gary Thompson, are yet to be tried.

Thompson’s case could be heard as soon as this summer in Marion County Superior Court.

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