Neighbors reject explosion suspect's claim as victim

Many Richmond Hill residents have moved into their new homes.

The latest developments in the court case of the November 2012 south side explosion have brought the painful memories of that horrific night back to the surface for the people of Richmond Hill. Monserrate Shirley's latest claim that she's the victim in all of this has certainly stirred the pot.

The site of the explosion remains fenced in, a grim reminder of what happened there. Now, those statements by Shirley have generated renewed anger, difficult conversations and the same haunting nightmares.

"It's not surprising," said Theresa Carmichael.

While Carmichael and her neighbors here in Richmond Hill expected Shirley to pull out all the stops, her claims in court this week that she's the victim still don't sit well.

"Look at what she did to our community. She took two people's lives in the Longworths. So, at this point, nothing surprises us.

"This is all new," said Carmichael as she gives a tour of her house.

Like many here, Carmichael's home was severely damaged. While her house wasn't leveled, just about everything inside had to be re-done.

"All the flooring is new. All the drywall is new. Everything is new. All new countertops, cabinets had to be re-secured," said Carmichael.

The signs of rebuilding are everywhere. But this community has also undergone a rebirth celebrating the blessings as a result of the tragedy.

"We had a summer vacation Bible study with a women's group and that was new after the tragedy and we formed friendships and relationships that never existed before the explosion," said Carmichael.

Residents have new and closer relationships to God and with each other, along with new homes. That's helping them move on.

"It wasn't my dream home, but it became my dream home. It's what we want it to be," said Carmichael.

They're also searching for a positive outlook in the midst of a long, dark storm.

"You have to believe there's good in the world, so be the good," said Carmichael.

But that's where Carmichael stops saying looking for the good doesn't mean you can ignore the bad.

"I'm a pretty sympathetic, caring and giving person. I have no sympathy for her," said Carmichael.

Carmichael says the hardest part for many neighbors is that there was allegedly another attempt to blow up the house a couple weeks before the actual explosion. Neighbors say if Shirley was such the victim, why didn't she reach out for help then?