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Deliberations resume in Indianapolis house explosion trial

February 24, 2016

Jurors resumed deliberating charges Wednesday against a man accused of helping plot a 2012 house explosion in Indianapolis that killed a couple and damaged or destroyed more than 80 homes.

The jury in Fort Wayne was meeting after deliberating for about an hour Tuesday following closing arguments on the murder, arson and insurance fraud against 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.

Leonard's attorney, Ted Minch, told jurors on 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 Shirley, who owned the house that exploded in the neighborhood on the city's south side. 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.

Shirley 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."

Jennifer and John "Dion" Longworth were killed in the explosion and fire that followed.

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

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth told jurors the testimony they heard, along with surveillance video and DNA evidence prove that Leonard as involved and 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.

His trial was moved to Fort Wayne because of extensive media coverage in Indianapolis.

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