Closing arguments conclude in house blast trial

February 23, 2016

A deputy prosecutor told jurors that a natural gas explosion in Indianapolis that killed two and devastated the south side Richmond Hill neighborhood was no accident, while a defense attorney argued prosecutors failed to prove his client was involved despite the testimony of 150 witnesses.

The two sides presented closing arguments Tuesday in the trial of 57-year-old Bob Leonard. Prosecutors allege he helped his half-brother, Mark Leonard, in a plot to recover $300,000 in insurance money.

Mark Leonard is serving two life sentences after being convicted in July on murder, arson and other charges. Authorities said he was the mastermind behind the plot, which they say also included his girlfriend at the time, Monserrate Shirley, Bob Leonard and two other men.

Bob Leonard’s attorney, Ted Minch, told jurors Tuesday that prosecutors failed to prove that his client was at the home on the day of the explosion on Nov. 10, 2012. He also said phone records don’t show that Leonard had any contact with Gary Thompson, an alleged co-conspirator.

Minch also spent much of his two-hour presentation trying to discredit the testimony of Monserrate Shirley, his half-brother’s girlfriend who owned the house that exploded. Shirley had the motivation to commit the crime because she was the one with the financial problems, Minch said.

Her cooperation led to charges against two alleged co-conspirators, Glenn Hults and Thompson, who face a joint June trial.

Shirley testified earlier this month that Bob Leonard was brought into the plot after a first attempt to burn down her house failed in October 2012.

She told the court that when she asked him about the explosion that killed her next-door neighbors, he replied: “Oh well, they died. You were in it. You talk, we talk.”

Shirley, who pleaded guilty last year to two conspiracy charges, faces a prison sentence of 20 to 50 years.

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth told jurors the testimony they heard, surveillance video and DNA evidence prove that Leonard was involved. He told jurors the explosion was no accident.

“This was not a utility malfunction by any means,” Hollingsworth said.

Leonard did not take the witness stand Friday as the defense spent about a half-hour presenting testimony after jurors heard 16 days of testimony from prosecution witnesses. The trial was moved to Fort Wayne due to extensive media coverage in Indianapolis.


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