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Remembering the Richmond Hill explosion 10 years later

An explosion in a home rocked Richmond Hill on Nov. 10, 2012, killing Jennifer and Dion Longworth, who lived next door.

INDIANAPOLIS — Today, the Richmond Hill subdivision looks like a typical south Indianapolis neighborhood. But longtime Hoosiers will never forget what happened here 10 years ago.

An explosion in a home rocked Richmond Hill on Nov. 10, 2012, killing Jennifer and Dion Longworth, who lived next door. There were heroes that night, including a family who heard and felt the blast. 

"A giant explosion shook the house," David McDonald said. "We stand up and go to the front door and it's blown wide open. You could see the big mushroom cloud."

"You're standing there and looking and seeing everything is on fire," Kirk McDonald said.

The McDonalds jumped into action.

"We actually came running in right here, hopped the fence and came through this way in the back of the house, where their kitchen and dining room is, where we found the first daughter," Andy McDonald said.

"I just pretty much grabbed her and saw she was bleeding from the head," Andy said. "I actually had my favorite shirt on, and I took that off and wrapped it around her head and told her to go up front. That's when I went back in and saw the other daughter up front, grabbed her."

Dozens of homes were damaged in the blast. Thirty houses would eventually be torn down. As neighbors began cleaning up and rebuilding, investigators would comb through the debris in Richmond Hill looking for clues.

It was not an accident.

RELATED: Fourth person arrested in 2012 Richmond Hill explosion

Police said the blast was intentionally carried out by the ringleader, Mark Leonard. Prosecutors said the plot centered around insurance money. Monserrate Shirley, who lived in the home that blew up, denied any wrongdoing.

"People keep asking me as if I know something. I don't know nothing," Shirley said.

Credit: WTHR
An aerial view of damage caused by an explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood on Nov. 10, 2012.

Prosecutors said Bob Leonard carried out his half-brother's plan to destroy the home to collect a $300,000 insurance payout. Shirley testified Bob Leonard was promised $10,000 for helping. During one attempt, she stood next to Mark, who opened up the fireplace gas valve, and then, the day before the explosion, was told to leave the home's front door unlocked for Bob.

RELATED: Richmond Hill ringleader Mark Leonard dies at Indianapolis hospital

Investigators said Bob filled the home with natural gas and rigged a microwave oven to set it off. Prosecutors dismissed all but two charges against Shirley for her testimony. She was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Mark, the convicted ringleader, was sentenced to life in prison and died in 2018. Bob got life in prison. Gary Thompson pleaded guilty to arson for his role in the explosion.

Dozens of homes have been rebuilt since the blast in 2012. Those who stayed in this neighborhood will never forget what happened in Richmond Hill 10 years ago.

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