Richmond Hill trial: Leonard's sister takes the stand

Mark Leonard
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Tuesday started close to home for Mark Leonard as his sister took the stand.

Tammy Leonard Durham said she received a text from her brother about one hour before the explosion saying he'd just won $250,000 at the casino. He offered to send a limo so she and her boyfriend at the time could join him and Monserrate Shirley at the casino and they could all hang out together.

She initially declined the offer because she had her kids with her, but her boyfriend then asked her to "call his bluff" because they didn't believe he'd actually send a limo. She did, and Leonard said he wouldn't be sending a limo because they'd decided to fly to Vegas with a doctor friend they'd met.

Durham later clarified Leonard never mentioned Monserrate by name, just "we" and "us," which she assumed meant him and Shirley.

Roughly two days after the explosion, she was called in for a tape-recorded interview with police. Officers did not ask to get a copy of her text conversation with Leonard, nor did they ask for pictures of it. Between that interview and her deposition with attorneys, her phone was destroyed so there is no longer any concrete record of what was said. Her testimony Tuesday was based entirely on her memory.

After finishing her text conversation with her brother, Durham and her boyfriend went out for dinner about 1 mile away from Richmond Hill. They heard and felt the explosion at the restaurant, saw "white stuff" falling out of the sky and the windows momentarily warped from the force of the blast. She said people in the restaurant "thought it was the end of the world. It was awful."

Weeks before the explosion, she visited Shirley's home in Richmond Hill and saw a Cadillac in the garage, which she described as "undriveable." She said it had been driven down past the tires until it was riding on the rims, destroying the rims in the process. There was also a motorcycle, but she did not recall any noticeable damage to it.

When asked about Leonard & Shirley's relationship, she said her brother did not appear to love Shirley, but Shirley was "overly in love with him."

Durham avoided making eye contact with him the entire time she was on the stand.

The casino

Moving to the law enforcement perspective, Robert Andrew Fuller was called to the stand. He is the enforcement supervisor stationed at Hollywood Casino for the Indiana Gaming Commission.

After the explosion, Fuller was put into contact with ATF Special Agent Shirley who asked him to confirm if and when Leonard & Shirley were at the Hollywood Casino. The task was handed off to Agent Bret Bastable, who was on duty at the time the request came in.

Bastable searched through the casino's systems to find evidence of their stay on the entire day of the explosion. He started by tracking Leonard's player's card. A player's card can be used to track how much money you gamble at the casino as well as which games you play. Casinos want gamers to use them for marketing purposes, but they also offer benefits to players like free meals and hotel stays based on how much money you gamble, so Bastable said most gamers use them.

Leonard first popped up in the system for a game of blackjack at 12:30 p.m. on the afternoon of the explosion. Bastable confirmed Leonard was actually the one at the blackjack table by comparing surveillance video at that table to a BMV photo Bastable had obtained of Leonard. Leonard was seen buying in for $100, which he lost within 9 minutes. Shirley later got a $200 cash advance from her credit card and played slots for 3 minutes.

Neither had the $250,000 payday mentioned in Leonard's text conversation with his sister.

That combined 12 minutes was all the time they spent gambling that night, despite surveillance video placing them at the casino for nearly 12 hours. From Bastable's investigation, the rest of Leonard & Shirley's time was spent at an entertainment venue at the casino called "Hollywood on the Roof."

David John, the surveillance manager at Hollywood Casino, was called to the stand next and walked the jury through 30-45 minutes of the 12 hours of surveillance video.

He started with the couple walking into the casino building, moved to Leonard at the blackjack table, Shirley at the slot machine and then the pair sitting at the bar at "Hollywood on the Roof," where he testified they stayed for the rest of the night, minus small breaks (Bastable previously testified Leonard left at one point to buy Tylenol inside the casino, went to the restroom, etc.).

Toward the end of the night, Shirley was seen getting a phone call. After she hung up, both of them got up and left the casino. They were seen getting into their car around midnight.

Avi Morris, a database marketing manager with Hollywood Casino, analyzes what customers do at the casino based on their player's card records and sends out promotional materials based on that history. She said the company keeps win/loss records for every customer. A separate record is generated on a user's account for each machine and/or table they played at (If you walk up to a line of 20 slot machines and play a single pull on each machine, 20 reports will be generated in your file. If you play 20 pulls on a single slot machine, one report will be generated in your file).

A report was generated based on Mark Leonard's game play on the night of the explosion. It was a blackjack game that lasted 575 seconds (roughly 9.5 minutes). It was timestamped at 12:37 that afternoon as a $100 loss to Leonard.

Two comps (free giveaways earned by using his player's card) showed up on his record for that day: one for a buffet and one for a denied hotel room. Hotel room denial typically means the customer didn't play enough that day to earn a free room.

Derrick Collins, the manager of the Hollywood Casino's on-site hotel, testified they had records of Leonard staying at their hotel three weekends in a row - October 27, November 3 and November 9, 2012. Those records showed he did not stay there the night of November 10, 2012 (the night of the explosion).

A juror asked what date those stays were reserved on, but the records Collins had with him did not specify. That does not mean a reservation was not made, just that he didn't have the information at his fingertips to give an answer.

Boarding "Snowball"

Representatives from three different animal boarding companies testified "Snowball," the Shirley family cat, was boarded not only the weekend of the explosion, but both weekends leading up to it.
 

  • October 26 - October 29: VCA Sugar Grove Animal Hospital, Greenwood
  • November 3 - November 5: Arbor Lane Kennel, Indianapolis
  • November 9 - November 12: Barkefeller's, Indianapolis


Kathleen Tilson, owner of Arbor Lane Kennel, said Shirley also asked for Snowball to be groomed during the cat's stay there, but the kennel was already booked up for Saturday and doesn't do grooming appointments on Sunday. They offered to fit it in on Monday if another client canceled.

Tilson testified Shirley came back to Arbor Lane some time after the explosion and asked for an extra receipt for Snowball's stay that specifically mentioned the cat was left there for an extra day on the chance she could be groomed.

Short sale

Prosecutors then switched gears a bit and called on Mary Rose-Weston, the real estate agent Monserrate Shirley hired to list her home before the explosion.

Rose-Weston said Shirley called her in March 2011 to list the Richmond Hill property. She went into the home to get measurements of each room, take pictures and get other information needed for the listing. It hit the market a few days later on March 19.

The housing market in the Richmond Hill area had dipped at the time, and lower home values meant any sale wouldn't be able to completely pay off both of the mortgages Shirley owed on the property, classifying it as a "short sale." Since they would lose money in the deal, the lender/bank has the right to approve any buyer offer before it is accepted.

Rose-Weston originally listed the home for $148,900. On November 12, they received an offer for $140,000, which Shirley originally agreed to. Rose-Weston got approval from one of Shirley's lenders to sell at the lower price and was in the process of negotiating with the second when Shirley asked to withdraw the listing. She signed a mutual release on December 14, 2011, authorizing Rose-Weston to take it off the market.

Alan Strange, a forensic auditor with the ATF, was brought in to look into Shirley and Leonard's financial situation leading up to the explosion.

He testified Shirley had fallen behind on her mortgage payments. She missed payments throughout 2011 and 2012, at one point getting three months behind. She did eventually catch up, qualifying as up-to-date in August 2012.

When Shirley rejected the offer on her home, she'd said she was working on a loan modification with a new lender, but that new deal never materialized. Had Shirley continued with the sale and the second lender also agreed to it, she would have been free of both mortgages - the lenders would have simply taken a loss on the remainder of her loans.

Prosecutors claim just one month after she backed out of the deal, Leonard convinced Shirley to increase the insurance coverage on the house.

Mounting debt & gambling habits

Beyond the home, Strange subpoenaed bank accounts, credit cards, loans and credit reports, as well as Monserrate's 2007 Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing with her ex-husband, John Shirley, and their 2011 divorce decree. After looking through all the documents he needed, he compiled all of the information into a final report, which was issued toward the end of August 2014.

That report showed the couple faced serious financial trouble leading up to the explosion.

Their finances were separate except for a joint checking account at Fifth-Third Bank. That checking account was co-mingled with a business checking account at the same bank for Leonard's business, Mastercraft Restoration, LLC, meaning money flowed freely between the personal and business accounts.

Mastercraft brought in no revenue for a long period in 2012 because Leonard was so sick he had to be hospitalized and couldn't work. In fact, there were only six total deposits into the business account over the course of the entire year, totaling around $40,000, all of which was used up. None went into savings; they were essentially living paycheck to paycheck.

"As soon as the money came in, it was spent," Strange testified.

Meanwhile, Shirley's bankruptcy agreement was dismissed because she wasn't making payments, reverting all of her debts back to their full value and opening her up to debt collectors.

Leonard had debts of his own. He faced three civil judgments and had 14 "adverse accounts" on his credit report. Credit lines are labeled "adverse accounts" on your credit report when you either make late payments on a debt or the account falls into collection status.

Altogether, he owed nearly $100,000.

Shirley had adverse accounts of her own, plus her two mortgages on the Richmond Hill home, bringing their combined debt to around $275,000.

Overall, he found several signs of financial stress, including IRS debts, overdraft charges and cash advances from credit sources that were used to gamble. In fact, he found they went to casinos 14 times throughout 2011 and 2012. Sometimes they did well, one time winning $7,500. Other times, their luck wasn't so good, including losses of $19,100 on a single trip.

Looking ahead

Monserrate Shirley is scheduled to testify against her former boyfriend Wednesday.

Prosecutors have said from the start they had enough evidence to convict Mark Leonard even before they made a plea deal with Shirley, but Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson told reporters after court Tuesday, "She gives an insider's perspective, and I think it's that perspective the jury needs to hear. She can fill in some detail and it's our expectation that will happen in court tomorrow."

"I think every single witness is part of connecting the dots, and...she will be a significant witness in regard to doing that," added Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry in a separate interview.

Leonard's attorneys have already made it clear they plan to attack her credibility, and prosecutors are already doing what they can to minimize that. The prosecution moved Monday to limit questioning about Shirley's alleged extramarital affairs.

Defense attorneys argue the affairs - particularly one in which she reportedly blackmailed a doctor with whom she'd had an affair - show her ability to manipulate situations and the men in her life. Judge John Marnocha said it doesn't matter if Shirley had one, 10 or 100 affairs - it's not admissible.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are focused on proving Leonard's guilt. Investigators and acquaintances are expected to testify about Leonard's alleged bragging about coming into money, shopping for a car and trying to have a witness killed after his arrest. They will also try to prove valuables were taken from the home before the explosion, including the family's prized possession - a portrait of Shirley's daughter, Brooke.

In exchange for her testimony, prosecutors dropped most of the criminal charges against Shirley. Leonard, still on the hook for all 53 counts of murder, arson and conspiracy, faces life without parole if convicted.

Prosecutors told Judge John Marnocha Tuesday they will likely rest their case next Wednesday or Thursday. The defense said if prosecutors wrapped up early enough on Thursday, they could call all of their witnesses that day alone and closing arguments could be held Friday, July 10. If that timeline holds, final jury instructions would be given Monday, July 13 and deliberation could begin.

For now, bringing Monserrate Shirley to court shows the prosecution is ready to begin making their case for the conspiracy aspect of this trial.

"Conspiracy simply means they acted together. That's been the allegation all along," Robinson said Tuesday. "We've got the acts that were committed and the losses. The acts of one are attributable to all. We believe that will be the evidence in the case."

Jurors were asked to be ready to go by 9:00 Wednesday morning.

CONTINUING COVERAGE