Life sentences without parole sought for Indianapolis explosion suspects


The three people accused in the November 10th explosion in a south side Indianapolis neighborhood that left a couple dead could face life without parole.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry made the announcement Monday that his office has filed a request for "life sentence without parole" for Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard, Jr.

The three have been charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Dion and Jennifer Longworth. The Longworths were killed after a massive explosion at Shirley's home, which was next door in the Richmond Hill subdivision. Prosecutors say Shirley, Mark and Bob Leonard ignited the explosion.

Private investigators and defense attorney James Voyles were inside the crime scene hours after learning of the prosecutor's decision.

"I am not going to say anything about anything. It's just my normal practice," said Voyles.

But residents whose homes were destroyed and lives disrupted have plenty to say.

"I'm fine with that," said homeowner Pam Brainerd.

The emotional stress of the devastating crime cost Brainerd her job.

"They used to have a nice home, a nice way of living. That will be a big change for them. They can sit there and think about what they did for the rest of their lives," she said.

The blast destroyed more than 30 homes and damaged 100 others in the neighborhood.

"This decision was arrived at after thoughtful consideration in accordance with our procedure in potential capital cases," Curry said. "The intentional acts of the defendants, as alleged, were undertaken with no regard whatsoever to the tragic consequences which did in fact flow from a scheme to blow up the Shirley residence. Those alleged acts, if proven, thus justify that the defendants spend life in prison with no option for parole."

"I think they intended to blow up their house. I don't think they realize or even thought about the damage that it would do to the neighborhood and to others," said Natasha Cole, who lost her home in the blast.

Even the though the crime resulted in horrendous damage and two deaths, the prosecutor's office decided against seeking the death penalty because it found no evidence that the trio intended to kill anyone.

"I don't think, at the end of the day, there is any suggestion that there was specific intent to do that," Curry said.

Curry says without any evidence the three intended to kill anyone it is unlikely jurors would recommend a death penalty. Even if they did, the proceedings would drag on for possibly decades.

"We know from experience that once the whole process plays out over 10, 12, 25 years, the likelihood someone would be executed is very slim," he said.

Aggravating circumstances are required for a life sentence without parole. In this case, Curry says the murders were committed by the unlawful detonation of an explosive device, there were multiple deaths, and that John Dion Longworth died as a result of direct contact with the fire.

"I think they have a longer period of time to live and hopefully think about what was done and what they are responsible for," Cole said.

The three are also charged with one count of Conspiracy to Commit Arson, a Class A Felony, 12 counts of Arson, a Class A Felony, and 33 counts of Arson, a Class B Felony.

Mark Leonard and Monserrate Shirley are each charged with an additional count of Conspiracy to Commit Arson, a Class B Felony.

All three defendants will face an additional count of Arson (Class B Felony) for damage to Richmond Hill homes that did not require demolition.

Shirley will face an additional charge of Insurance Fraud (Class C Felony) and Conspiracy to Commit Insurance Fraud (Class C Felony). Mark Leonard will also face the latter, additional charge.

Curry also announced a charge of Conspiracy to Commit Insurance Fraud against Mark Leonard and David Gill in connection with a separate case. The men are alleged to have submitted a claim for a stolen motorcycle but it later turned out that the motorcycle had been disassembled by the defendants, according to the prosecutor.

The Richmond Hill suspects appear in court next for a pre-trail conference on February 21.