Richmond Hill explosion suspects appear in court Wednesday

Monserrate Shirley

Three people accused of setting a horrific explosion in a neighborhood on the city's south side were back in court Wednesday.

Defense attorneys are arguing over legal details that could affect the trial and how long the suspects could spend in prison if they're found guilty.

Defense attorneys argue that prosecutors' intention to put Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother Bob Leonard in prison for life is unconstitutional and violates Indiana case law.

A judge's decision may hinge on whether Shirley's home was rigged to explode, knowing someone would be killed. The way Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson sees the case, "It is our argument that if you set an explosion of this magnitude, there is a high probability that people are going to die."

Neighbors Jennifer and Dion Longworth died in the November explosion that destroyed over 30 homes and damaged scores of others in the Richmond Hill neighborhood. Investigators say the three planned and set the blast to destroy Shirley's home and collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from insurance policies.

Defense attorneys say they intend to ask the judge to give their clients separate trials.

"Whatever the issues are for severances will be spelled out in our notices when we file them with the court. It will be pretty detailed," said Jim Voyles, who represents Shirley.

Prosecutors will argue for one trial for all three suspects.

"The defendants acted together. They committed the crime together. They should be tried together," insisted Robinson.

The trial is set for June of next year if all goes well, however, reports from the AFT and other expert analysis are still being gathered. Attorneys have thousands of pages of evidence to review and a long list of witnesses to interview. Trial judge Shelia Carlisle urged attorneys to move the process along to avoid any delays.

Along with other legal issues, the judge is still considering whether to hold the trial here in Indianapolis or move it to another county.

About a dozen residents of the Richmond Hill subdivision are attending the hearings. Watching the slow-moving legal process, they left court quickly and quietly.