As the Richmond Hill suspects appeared in court Wednesday, people who live in the neighborhood were still trying to put the nightmare behind them.
Two of the three suspects, Monserrate Shirley and her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, filed motions to have their cases separated. Shirley said she was manipulated by Leonard, and forced into the deadly home explosion plan.
Prosecutors have a month to make their argument for keeping the cases together.
Since the tragedy nine months ago, residents are returning to a new normal. Homes that were once demolished are rebuilt, the ‘For Sale’ signs are slowly being replaced with new faces moving in.
“My girlfriends and family were like, ‘Just let the boxes sit. You’re home,’” said Theresa Carmichael, a resident. “It just didn’t feel like home. It was overwhelming.”
Carmichael’s story comes with its share of ups and downs. Her home of nine years was deemed safe to live in shortly after the blast. Her walls, floors and stairwell began to buckle during the winter.
“Walls were completely gutted,” she said. “They had to re-secure all the cabinets and all the countertops were loose.”
After four months of repairs and living in an apartment, her home looked nearly brand new.
“About two weeks in, I [knew] something has got to go on the wall,” said Theresa. “The first picture I hung was my Jesus picture because he saved a lot of us that night.”
While one picture goes up, one family on Fieldfare Way is breaking ground. The Schouts brought their four children to see their lot for the first time since the explosion.
“What’s not to be excited about today?” Sarah Schout chuckled. “We didn’t want to bring them back until there was something to see. [The three suspects] meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. This is the good.”
Neighbors admit the good can, at times, be overshadowed by the bad. Theresa said watching the latest developments in court between the three suspects are surreal, but not surprising.
“When people are in desperate situations, they go through desperate measures and sometimes they will sacrifice their character,” said Carmichael. “Is there anger? Sure. Is there sadness? Sure. It’s those overwhelming emotions that just continue.”
Despite how much Richmond Hill has changed, those who have stuck by it can still find plenty of good – all while they wait for justice to be served for the two they have lost. Jennifer and Dion Longworth were killed during the blast.
“We will always have a bond with anybody,” said Carmichael. “Whether they chose to move on onto another community, we will always be one. We’ll always be.”