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Prosecutors: Debt motive for 2012 Indy explosion

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Prosecutors have filed court documents indicating that mounting gambling and credit card debt were the motive behind a deadly explosion that devastated an Indianapolis neighborhood in 2012.

Monserrate Shirley, her then-boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother, Bob Leonard, face charges of murder, arson and conspiracy to commit arson in the Nov. 10, 2012, blast that killed two of Shirley's neighbors and wrecked dozens of houses in the Richmond Hill subdivision on the city's far south side.

Marion County prosecutors say in court documents that Shirley had run up $63,000 in credit card debt and Mark Leonard had lost about $10,000 at a casino and then put the debt on Shirley's credit card, The Indianapolis Star reported.

A probable cause affidavit says that a week before the explosion, Mark Leonard told a friend he was "looking for a Ferrari to buy" on Craigslist. When asked how he could afford it, Leonard replied the couple expected to get $300,000, of which he would get $100,000.

Prosecutors say they intend to present evidence of mortgage liabilities, the threat of foreclosure, Shirley's inability to sell her home and the fact that the home's insurance coverage had been increased prior to the explosion.

Attorneys for the suspects are seeking to move the trials out of Marion County because of extensive media coverage and to break the trials for the Leonard brothers into two parts, first addressing the arson charges before any mention of the deaths can be made.

Attorneys for the three want to stipulate to the damage caused by the explosion to avoid having all the people who suffered injuries or property damage testifying about their losses, as well as make the state reveal any deals made with witnesses or informants and to suppress an incriminating statement Bob Leonard made after his arrest, saying it was obtained as a "result of physical and/or mental coercion."

A hearing is scheduled for the week of July 28 on Mark Leonard's request that his trial be moved to another county. Hearing dates have not been set for similar requests by Shirley and Bob Leonard.

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