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Judge to allow recordings from Indy blast at trial

June 4, 2015

The judge hearing the trial of a man charged in an Indianapolis house explosion says he'll allow prosecutors to present an audio recording of the screams of a man who initially survived the blast before dying.

Prosecutors argued during a pretrial hearing that audio recordings of John "Dion" Longworth show the manner and cause of his death. However, defendant Mark Leonard's defense attorney, Diane Black, said the recordings could be prejudicial against him.

"There's no relevant reason to have the audio recording of Mr. Longworth's last moments," Black said.

Firefighters made the audio recordings moments before Longworth died of his injuries.

St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha announced his decision Thursday during jury selection. Marnocha said Wednesday he'll decide during the trial whether to admit the autopsy photos of Longworth and his wife, Jennifer.

"What is not gruesome to us may be gruesome to a regular person," Marnocha said.

The November 2012 explosion killed the Longworths, who lived next door to the house that exploded, and damaged or destroyed more than 80 homes.

Jury selection begins Thursday in Leonard's trial in which he faces more than 50 counts including murder, conspiracy and insurance fraud. Opening statements are scheduled for Monday, and prosecutors have said the trial could last six weeks. The case was moved to South Bend because of pretrial publicity in central Indiana.

Prosecutors have said the explosion was a scheme to collect $300,000 in insurance. It occurred when the home of Leonard's then-girlfriend, Monserrate Shirley, filled up with gas after a fireplace valve and a gas line regulator were removed.

Shirley has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson and has agreed to testify against Leonard. Three other people face charges in the case.

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