Homeowner at center of explosion feels lucky to be alive

Monserrate Shirley

The woman who owned the home that blew up Saturday is sending a clear message to anyone who thinks she had anything to do with the explosion.

In an extremely emotional interview, Moncy Shirley says she's stunned by what happened and feels lucky to be alive.

Shirley says she's devastated by what happened in her Richmond Hill neighborhood Saturday night and what she and her family are enduring now, with all the questions and speculation that they had something to do with the deadly explosion.

She says she wouldn't wish the experience on anyone.

"She was screaming, 'I'm glad you're alive! I'm glad you're alive! It was an explosion in the neighborhood and we were looking for your body'," Shirley said.

That's how she learned her neighbors feared she might be dead after a neighbor called her on the phone screaming after an explosion in Shirley's neighborhood destroyed her home and the house next door, killing neighbors Dion and Jennifer Longworth.

"These people lost their life. I lost my house. Everybody lost their house. It's devastating and people keep asking me questions and questions, like I know something. I don't know nothing. I just left my house like we always do," sobbed Shirley.

According to Shirley, she and her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, left Friday night for a weekend at Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg. Shirley's 12-year-old daughter was staying with friends and they boarded their cat. That's a move some have wondered about, but Shirley said that wasn't unusual.

"We always put him in a place for him to stay, 'cause he gets very nervous," she explained, saying that the cat has anxiety about staying alone overnight and vomits in the house if he's left for too long.

Shirley says she's talked to police several times since the explosion, as recently as Monday. But she's not considered a suspect - nobody is - because investigators still aren't sure what caused the explosion. Shirley says people have rushed to judgement, implying that she was responsible for what happened.

"It just feels horrible, like when everybody's pointing on you, like we did something wrong," said the native of Puerto Rico. "I'm a nurse. I cannot sleep, I do not eat. Everybody's been asking me questions."

Shirley cried that, aside from an uncle in Bloomington, she has been going through this without any close family to support her.

Shirley's ex-husband, John Shirley, told Eyewitness News Monday the couple's daughter sent him texts recently, saying the furnace in the house wasn't working so they stayed in a hotel. Shirley said the house was cold, so she got estimates from repair companies to come and look at the furnace, but her boyfriend changed the thermostat two weeks ago and the house warmed up again.

"It started working," said Shirley about the heat.

Investigators believe natural gas was somehow involved Shirley said she never smelled any, but said her daughter thought she did recently.

"She said, 'Mommy, it smell like gas in here, like in the laundry room'," recalled Shirley of their conversation.

"She says, 'Every time I come home from school and we open the garage doors, I smell gas in there'," Shirley also remembered.

With everyone asking how and why, Shirley said she is tortured by the same questions.

"Everybody ask me if I have enemies that somebody would want to, they thought I was inside the house and they want to kill me in there. I don't know," she said.

One thing Shirley said she is sure of is that she will never be going back to Richmond Hill again. It was a neighborhood where she used to feel safe, but said she'll never feel that way again.

She said the last time she spoke with police was Monday. She said she is not happy her ex-husband has spoken out about the situation. Shirley also said she is not in any financial trouble.

She told Eyewitness News, after her divorce, her house was up for sale, but she decided to take it off the market and worked extra hours and two jobs to keep it and make the mortgage payments.