The three suspects in the fatal Richmond Hill blast walk Dec. 24, 2012, in hallways of the Indianapolis City-County Building to reach a Marion County courtroom. / Kelly Wilkinson / The Star
INDIANAPOLIS -- The three people at the center of the fatal Richmond Hill blast appeared in a Marion County courtroom Monday morning.
the standard-issue orange jumpsuits of the Marion County Jail, the
three took turns appearing before Judge Sheila Carlisle in Marion
Monserrate Shirley, 47, her boyfriend, Mark
Leonard, 43, and his half brother Robert "Bob" Leonard Jr., 54, are
facing murder and several other felony charges in what authorities have
called a senseless crime.
The judge entered a plea of not guilty for the three.
requesting a public defender, Mark Leonard told the judge he made about
$100,000 a year in restoration and property management but he did not
have any money now. He said all his assets, including an unspecified
amount of cash, were destroyed in the explosion.
have anything, it all burned," he told Carlisle. "All my money is gone.
Everything. I had money in the house and it's not there and it's all
None of the three suspects showed excessive emotion
at the hearing. Shirley, who appeared first, initially struggled to hold
back tears but quickly regained her composure. She was the only one of
the three to hire an attorney, and her hearing lasted a few minutes.
two Leonard men requested court-appointed attorneys, and their hearings
lasted slightly longer as the judge asked questions to gauge their
ability to hire lawyers. She ultimately appointed attorneys for both
The hearings began at 10 a.m. All three were completed by 10:30 a.m.
said the three conspired to blow up Shirley's home to collect about
$300,000 in insurance money, which Shirley and Mark Leonard needed after
gambling away thousands of dollars and amassing sizable credit card
Investigators said the Leonard brothers, who have a
history of scamming people for money, hatched a plan to turn Shirley's
house on Fieldfare Way on the city's Southeastside into a bomb. They
said the two rigged the fireplace to pour out natural gas and set the
microwave oven's timer to trigger the blast.
The explosion on the night of Nov. 10 destroyed several homes,
damaged more than 80 and killed Jennifer Longworth, 36, and her husband,
John "Dion" Longworth, 34, Shirley's next-door neighbors.
John Longworth's aunt, Pam Mosser, 50, attended the hearing and said afterward she hoped the defendants "die a horrible death."
(Longworth) burned and screamed until he died," said Mosser, a nurse
who is married to Longworth's father. "I cannot forgive that. Both
(John) and Jennifer died suffering and screaming. It is unbelievable to
me that someone could be gambling and drinking while their house blows
up and people are dying."
Mosser said her husband, also named John, has been having nightmares every night.
is hard to be a nurse and have these feelings of bitterness," she said.
"You become a nurse to help people. But this is a stage of grief."
About 20 Richmond Hills residents helped pack the court hearing to capacity.
Among those who attended today's hearing as spectators was longtime Indianapolis attorney Jack Crawford.
here because this obviously will be one of the most sensational
criminal cases in Indianapolis history," Crawford said. "And I think the
public should not make a rush to judgment on the facts of this case."
citizens might judge prosecutors to have an easy task, Crawford said,
because of publicity about the suspects' activities in the days leading
up to the explosion and the seemingly convenient ways the suspects
removed valuable possessions and a family pet before the devastating
"A lot of people have these folks convicted already by
the media accounts," Crawford said, "but this is a
circumstantial-evidence case. There are no eyewitnesses who saw these
folks do anything. There are no admissions or confessions by the
defendants. And arson cases are difficult to prove."
hearing, Crawford said, "is the first step in a long process. This case
will go on for many, many months, and I think people should wait to
reserve judgment and wait until they hear all the facts."
The Indy Star