Ex-husband of Richmond Hill explosion suspect speaks

John Shirley
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The ex-husband of a suspect charged in the south side explosion has a plea for her tonight. John Shirley says it's time for Monserrate Shirley to tell what she knows.

He reveals new information during his first sit-down interview since the tragedy.

Ground zero at Richmond Hill was off-limits. ATF and forensic investigators scoured the scene for clues days after the south side explosion last November.

Now, 13 Investigates has learned someone else was there.

"I was asked to come to the site and talk to head of ATF and fire marshals and such, asked how the gas lines ran into the house, and what kind of connections and where the gas line ran into the fireplace," revealed John Shirley.

John Shirley, the ex-husband of suspect Monserrate "Moncy" Shirley, was questioned and monitored as a possible suspect. Now, for the first time, he's talking about the investigation, his ex-wife's arrest and the fallout in an exclusive interview with 13 Investigates.

"Horrible. I mean, I felt really horrible," he said.

The neighborhood he shared with Moncy until their divorce two years ago was in ruins.

"I'm shocked at what they thought was a solution...to their current debt," he said, referring to his ex-wife and her live-in boyfriend who were living at 8349 Fieldfare Way.

The couple who lived next door, Dion and Jennifer Longworth didn't make it out alive.

"It breaks my heart, because they were my neighbors, too," he added, recalling the couple's beautiful English flower garden planted on the side of their home.

John Shirley learned of the explosion from his then-12-year-old daughter, whose name, photo and whereabouts are confidential.

John thought a faulty furnace was to blame. Weeks prior, he says his daughter sent a text message saying the house was cold and that she and mom would be staying in a hotel.

But suspicion soon set in.

Moncy claimed her daughter's Persian cat, "Snowball," required boarding. John says he had never known that to happen before and called it unusual that a revered stuffed animal that always stayed home was packed in his daughter's bag for a sleepover the night of the tragedy.

"I just knew that was too coincidental. She knew that was our daughter's cat and nothing was going to happen to that cat. And also our daughter had a stuffed animal that she had since she was a baby," he explained.

Despite those gnawing questions, he says he was stunned a month later by Moncy's arrest.

"I don't think I've ever cried so much in one day. For my ex because of what she had gotten herself involved in, but mostly because of that close relationship she has with our daughter that was completely jeopardized," Shirley said, sitting in his small living room miles away from the scene.

Moncy was charged with murder, arson and insurance fraud along with her live-in boyfriend, Mark Leonard, and his brother, Bob.

John Shirley was under a protective order at the time and was only allowed to text his daughter after threatening mental abuse a year earlier, he said to get at Moncy.

So on the day of the arrest, when his daughter needed him most, John Shirley couldn't comfort her and was left regretting his behavior with Moncy.

"That was not the best way to handle that situation. I kind of let my emotions do the wrong thing," he admitted.

It wasn't until weeks later, when the courts allowed him temporary custody, that he learned his daughter had also been questioned about the case.

It was December 21, days before Christmas, a child asked about her mother's alleged crimes and now, for the first time, 13 Investigates is learning investigators suspect Moncy and Mark Leonard could have hidden more than the suspected golf clubs and other items recovered during a search warrant at Bob Leonard's home.

According to John Shirley, his daughter was questioned for five hours.

"Yeah, they asked her a lot of questions and pretty intensively. The only thing I found out later was that (his daughter) had possibly mentioned about a storage unit and that was something they went after further," he said.

John can't understand how Moncy got involved and why she didn't reach out for help. He insists she's not the Moncy he was married to for 18 years.

"To go to such an extreme...to capitalize off such an evil act, it's not like her. I knew Moncy as a registered nurse, coming home and telling me of the lives she saved," he told 13 Investigates.

John admits there was verbal and mental abuse in his marriage to Moncy. He says that's why they agreed to split. But he calls recent allegations of abuse in a court filing on August 9, nonsense and expresses compassion for the mother of his child.

"It doesn't mean that I don't care about her. I feel horrible about what has happened to her. It's just the worst thing that could have happened," he said, unapologetically.

He now has a plea for his ex-wife.

"I wish for my ex-wife that she could kind of come to a place and find some acceptance," he said "I don't think she's going to help herself unless she helps authorities with what they really want to know."

"Do you think she's guilty?" asked 13 Investigates reporter Sandra Chapman.

"I think she's guilty in the sense of what she knows," he said.

John Shirley says it's been rough going. He's turning his attention now to financial matters regarding the house that blew up. County property records list only Moncy's name, but John Shirley believes his name is still on the outstanding mortgage.