Judge okays separate trials for Richmond Hill suspects

Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard and Robert Leonard
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Nearly one year after the Indianapolis south side explosion, a judge has ruled there will be three separate trials for each of the defendants. It means more time invested, more work involved and more worry for residents who are anxious to move on.

Doug Aldridge, a Richmond Hill resident, pointed out all the new homes that have been built since the November 2012 blast that damaged or destroyed dozens of houses.

The people who still live in Richmond Hill have a lot to be proud of.

"Fourteen new homes out of the 30 homes torn down. We're gettin' there, but we're not quite there yet," said Aldridge.

Not quite there because the legal battle is just beginning and getting longer by the day. A judge ruled Thursday what was to be one trial for Monserrate Shirley, her ex-boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother, Bob Leonard, will now be three separate trials.

"Clearly we were looking at a lengthy trial to begin with and we certainly don't look forward to the possibility of doing it three times, but if that's ultimately what we have to do, we'll do it," said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.

As soon as that ruling was released, Aldridge posted it on the Richmond Hill community's private Facebook page. The reaction from this community that's still healing and rebuilding is one of bitter disappointment.

"We want this to go away. We want this to be done. We want the blue tarp to go away. We want to try to get back to some sense of normalcy, which we've done a pretty good job, but it's just another roadblock in the progression of getting this done," said Aldridge.

In her motion to separate the trials filed in August, Shirley claimed of "being trapped in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with Mark Leonard and that he was so physically and emotionally abusive that she had zero power over her fate."

"Ultimately, we weren't surprised by the ruling given the nature of the allegations in the case. It wasn't surprising and we'll certainly oblige," said Curry.

But, for the people here who've already been through so much, it's not that easy to accept.

"We now know the people who are going to testify will have to do it three times. There is going to be a lot cost to the city and time and effort on the part of Richmond Hill," said Aldridge.

The trials will likely take place in June 2014.