SOUTH BEND, Ind. (June 15, 2015) — Week one of the Mark Leonard trial in South Bend ended with a Richmond Hill neighbor putting the defendant near the scene of the crime in the days after the fatal explosion on Indianapolis’ south side in 2012.
Week two is expected to find more residents on the witness stand, not only explaining what happened to them the night their world blew up, but also recounting the days leading up to the blast and the hours after and what they saw.
Leonard is accused of conspiring with girlfriend Monserrate Shirley to blow up her home in pursuit of a $300,000 insurance payoff.
Dion and Jennifer Longworth died next door, and 80 homes were damaged or destroyed with losses totaling more than $4 million.
Leonard faces 53 counts including murder, arson, conspiracy and insurance fraud, while Shirley is expected to testify against her former lover in exchange for a lesser sentence.
“On Monday, we’re continuing to present residents of Richmond Hill,” said deputy prosecutor Denise Robinson, who is more than halfway through her list of neighbors who suffered physically or financially because of the explosion. “We’re just moving on to Fieldfare and moving closer to the Shirley residence.”
Shirley’s house at 8349 Fieldfare Way was obliterated by the natural gas explosion and fire on Nov. 10, 2012.
Tony Burnett, who lived across the street from Shirley’s home, and Glen Olvey, who resided next door, are expected to testify this week.
“We’re on track, we’re where we expected to be with respect to timing and we’re ready to move forward and ready to move into a little more evidence, a little different evidence, by mid-week,” said Robinson.
Burnett is expected to testify that he spotted two men leaving Shirley’s house the afternoon of the blast at the same time prosecutors will claim that Bob Leonard, Jr., and Gary Thompson were preparing for the explosion by opening up gas valves and setting the timer on a microwave oven to spark the fire several hours later.
Olvey will recount the rescue of his wife and daughter as their house collapsed in the aftermath of the explosion.
During the first week of testimony, Leonard’s attorneys rarely questioned witnesses, though two residents recalled spotting their client with Shirley in the hours and days after the tragedy.
Defense attorney Diann Black told jurors that while Leonard participated in a “stupid and selfish” insurance fraud scheme, he did not intend to kill his girlfriend’s neighbors.
Testimony resumes at 1 p.m. Monday in St. Joseph Superior Court.