Luminary service marks anniversary of deadly explosion


It has been one year since a deadly explosion rocked the Richmond Hill neighborhood on the Indianapolis south side.  The images that November night were frightening - showing the aftermath of a blast that destroyed homes and lives.

We take a look back - not only at the destruction, but also the resilience of those who lived through it.

At first, many thought it had to be a plane crash.  But it was an explosion that was so large it was felt several counties away. There was a fire ball so intense that it could be seen for miles.

Minutes after emergency crews arrived - they found no airplane. Instead, they found destruction, danger and chaos in the Richmond Hill neighborhood was immense.

A home had exploded on Fieldfare Way, taking out or damaging homes all around it.

"We stand up and go to the front door and it's blown wide open. You could see the big mushroom cloud. You're standing there and looking and seeing everything is on fire." Said one witness.

Police, firefighters and EMT's rushed in, making sure residents got out.  But here were injuries as well as two lives lost.  Greenwood teacher Jennifer Longworth and her husband Dion were killed in the explosion. They lived right next door to its epicenter.

In the days that followed, neighbors assessed the damage. "Look at that window. There's one pane that didn't break and that glass would've gotten us."  It was almost overwhelming.

It was also a crime scene. Investigators determined this massive explosion was intentional. The accused: some of the residents themselves. Prosecutors say Monserrate Shirley, and her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, tried to destroy Shirley's home to collect insurance money. Leonard's brother, Bob, was also charged with the deadly crime.

Each suspect will have a separate trial beginning in June.

Meanwhile, back in Richmond Hill - one year later - a neighbor points out how much has changed.

"This home is new. This is new.  This is new...this one here."

They are rebuilding, and there's a renewed spirit in this neighborhood as they continue to recover from an unbelievable tragedy.

The Richmond Hill community held a luminary walk in their neighborhood Sunday evening to mark the tragic anniversary of the explosion.

Dion and Jennifer Longworth were honored during the service.

"Lord, we remember and honor Jennifer and Dion Longworth who lost their lives so suddenly one year ago tonight," said a Richmond Hill resident in a prayer.

Dion Longworth's sister, Emily, and nephew, Tylor, lit candles. It's their pain - a year later - that is still the deepest.

"Lighting the candles was therapeutic," said Emily Voss, Dion Longworth's sister.

"It is really nice to see every single person who admired them and respected them," said Tylor Longworth, Dion Longworth's nephew.

Walking in the dark, members of the Richmond Hill neighborhood were guided by nearly 1,500luminaries.

"It's a great time for all of us to be together," said Richmond Hill resident Jennifer Pitcher.

The luminary walk ended where the home of Dion and Jennifer Longworth once stood. Thirty homes in all were torn down after the explosion.

Dion Longworth's family took a moment to sit by themselves as they felt the Richmond Hill community's love and support.

Two Chinese lanterns were also lit for the couple.

There was light in the sky and in the neighborhood; a sign this community is gaining strength back each and every day.

"Let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen."

Several family members of both Dion and Jennifer Longworth traveled from out of state to be at the luminary service.