Richmond Hill resident on blast allegations: "Sickening"

Neighbors greet each other with a hug after hearing the news.
Published: .
Updated: .

Residents of Richmond Hill reacted with a mix of strong emotions towards the news that three people have been charged in the Nov. 10th explosion.

The blast killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth who lived next to the home that exploded on Fieldfare Way. About 90 homes in the subdivision were damaged, costing an estimated $4.4 million. Over 30 will be demolished by the year's end.

Moments after charges were announced, Amanda Cross got what she's been praying for since the explosion rocked her neighborhood.

"As much tragedy as it's done to our neighborhood, this is something that we couldn't ask for right before Christmas. It's really a blessing," said Cross.

The blast caused over $20,000 in damages to Cross' home, but it destroyed Abby Jackson's house. Eyewitness News was with her on demolition day, and we were there on Friday when she was overjoyed - and overcome with emotion.

Jackson rushed to the neighborhood after closing on her new home.

"Excited, overwhelmed, sad, mad, everything," said Jackson.

"The emotions are up and down. There's joy. There's sorrow and there's anger," said Doug Aldridge, homeowner in Richmond Hill. "I don't want to say we're happy, but we're...this is part of the rebuilding process."

The arrests and charges of Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother Bob Leonard bring some relief for residents there. But the details of the careful planning that went into this allegedly deliberate act was hard to take.

"They said they had tried it the week before! And I hadn't heard that. So I was like, how could they do this," said Richmond Hill homeowner Patricia Blechl. "They just ruined so many lives here."

"I think that part of the information came as a very, very big surprise," Aldridge said.

"I want closure for the people who passed on, for their families. It's just - it's sickening," said Jackson, who fought to contain her feelings.

Jackson, whose home was among the first of the demolitions, just signed the closing paperwork on a new home Friday morning.

Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard lived at the home that exploded on Fieldfare Way. Prosecutors say the couple, along with Leonard's brother Bob Leonard Jr., plotted to destroy the house so they could collect insurance money on their homeowner's policy. Prosecutor Terry Curry says Leonard tried to blow up the house the weekend before the blast, but was unsuccessful.

See the probable cause affidavit here.