Ex-husband of Indianapolis south side explosion suspect speaks
A year ago today, the day after an explosion killed two people and damaged dozens of homes in the Richmond Hill Neighborhood, investigators were still trying to figure out if the blast was a tragic accident or something more sinister.
In the days that followed, the investigation turned to the next-door neighbor of victims Jennifer and Dion Longworth and the house where the explosion happened. Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother Bob were eventually arrested and accused of plotting to blow up Shirley's house to collect insurance money. The court will try them separately beginning in June 2014.
An illuminated cross marks the spot where Jennifer and Dion Longworth called home.
John Shirley used to live next door. He is the ex-husband of Monserrate Shirley, the woman now facing nearly 100 criminal counts of arson, conspiracy and insurance fraud, along with Mark and Bob Leonard, for the south side explosion.
"It breaks my heart," said John Shirley, speaking in an exclusive sit-down interview with 13 Investigates.
"I knew my neighbors. I knew them well," Shirley recalled. "He was a big Colts fan. We used to talk when we were outside or shoveling snow in the winter time. They were good people."
On the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, John Shirley finds himself reliving his own personal devastation, mostly felt through the eyes of his and Moncy's 13-year-old daughter.
"I knew she had lost all that she was used to," he said.
John Shirley attempted to provide a home for her and worked to convince a court to give it a try.
"You have a 13-year-old going through puberty, mom's arrested, hadn't been with dad for a year, lots of trauma, lots of emotions...it didn't work?" asked 13 Investigates Reporter Sandra Chapman.
"Right, right," responded John Shirley.
What you likely don't know is that from her cell at the Marion County Jail, Monserrate Shirley was allowed to weigh in on her daughter's well-being, through a team of attorneys.
"It's been very hard on me," John Shirley admitted.
A juvenile court ruled an out-of-state placement was in his daughter's best interest. It provided something he and Monserrate Shirley could not.
"It's giving her an opportunity to be in more of a family setting," said John Shirley.
Yet he says there's an overwhelming sadness on this anniversary for his daughter and ex-wife. Investigators say Monserrate Shirley and her friends blew up the house for insurance money. That's something John Shirley has a hard time with.
"I was giving her a thousand dollars a month," he explained. "Moncy had a lot of friends in that neighborhood, and there are a lot of people she could have reached out to."
All three suspects are due back in court in December.
Investigators are still trying to identify a fourth suspect in the case, a man allegedly seen with Bob Leonard leaving Moncy Shirley's home in a white van just hours before the blast.