Richmond Hill trial: Prosecution, defense both rest their case

Mark Leonard
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Twenty days of testimony wrapped up Thursday as both the prosecution and defense rested their cases.

Wrapping up

Prosecutors started by calling their final witness Thursday morning: IMPD Det. Jeff Wager, the lead investigator in this case.

He spoke with Arthur Kirkpatrick on November 21, 2012 about surveillance video from the Gas Light Inn, and Kirkpatrick mentioned he'd spoken with Bob and Mark Leonard about the properties of natural gas, including how much it would take to fill up a house. He did not make a formal statement to Det. Wager at that time, though, saying he wanted to talk to a lawyer first. That attorney soon contacted Wager, and Kirkpatrick gave a formal statement on November 29, 2012.

Det. Wager obtained phone records for Mark Leonard and confirmed he did not have any phone-based contact with Gary Thompson or Glenn Holts from the time of the explosion through at least November 28. He did, though, regularly talk on the phone with Bob Leonard during that time.

Wager also obtained a search warrant on December 6, 2012, for Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard's temporary home at a local apartment complex. During that search, investigators found a receipt for their hotel stay the Sunday night before the explosion.

After a few more interviews, including Glenn Holts (who was not a suspect at the time), charges were filed on December 21, 2012, against Mark Leonard, Monserrate Shirley and Bob Leonard. Mark Duckworth was mentioned in the probable cause affidavit for their arrest, but only by his initials, in order "to protect his identity from public scrutiny and keep him safe," according to Wager.

Gary Thompson was charged in January 2015 and Glenn Holts was charged in March 2015.

Det. Wager said he kept his focus on the traditional homicide investigation - not the science - saying the fire department's origin and cause report labeling the explosion as intentional is not what made him decide to move forward with charges against Shirley and the Leonard brothers. He said he felt his own investigation through collecting evidence at the scene, serving search warrants and interviewing witnesses & suspects was enough to arrest them.

"Pitchforks and torches"

During cross-examination, defense attorney Diane Black reviewed the timeline of Det. Wager's investigation, including charges being filed against all five of the suspects.

She then returned to the fact that Monserrate Shirley testified Mark Leonard told her he'd removed the step-down regulator and hidden it somewhere, but did not mention that in either of her interviews with authorities as part of her plea deal (known as a "proffer" and "factual basis") even though she was under oath at the time and even discussed other aspects of the gas line. The first time Shirley mentioned Leonard's comment was during a deposition with the defense attorneys, which is also the first time Det. Wager heard about it.

On re-direct, Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson re-iterated that while investigators had knowledge of a fourth or even potentially fifth suspect in the case, they were not able to find enough information to charge either of them until Shirley gave her insight into the conspiracy as part of her plea deal. She also went back to Shirley's testimony in court that she didn't understand the step-down regulator was important. Robinson said that claim was supported by the fact that she continually referred to it as a "step-down valve" instead of a step-down regulator.

Det. Wager also said that he did not ask Shirley about the fireplace valve during her proffer because that interview was only intended to be a chance to get an overall idea of what she knew about the case. He said there were many other details he also did not ask her about at that time.

Before Det. Wager stepped down from the witness stand, Black once more reviewed Shirley's record as a witness then said it was only "because of pitchforks and torches" that Leonard wasn't offered a deal as well.

"They should be punished - for life"

Defense attorneys called to the stand Det. Aaron Carter with IMPD's arson unit.

He was tasked with interviewing Monserrate Shirley three days after the explosion. They met at the firehouse closest to the Richmond Hill subdivision and talked in a private room.

Det. Carter started by telling her she didn't need to worry - they were talking to everyone at that point in the investigation, so she didn't need to feel like she was being targeted as a suspect. She said it was okay because she had nothing to hide.

He began with basic questions: Where were she and Mark on Friday? Where were they on Saturday? With them out of town, how did her daughter get to school on Friday? Who took care of her that night and Saturday? How often did they go to the casino?

He testified Thursday the most suspicious thing he took from that interview was that she said she always boarded the cat when they went out of town, even when it was only for 1-2 nights. He said his own parents had a cat and never boarded it for such a short period of time.

Shirley later said during the interview that whoever was responsible "should be punished. They should go do jail." Carter said she talked about being Catholic and that in the end, it was in God's hands, but that so many were affected, those responsible should be punished for life.

The defense then moved to enter WTHR's interview with Monserrate Shirley into evidence. The judge agreed, and the video was played for the jury.

Defense attorneys then rested their case.

Looking ahead

With testimony in the books, attorneys on both sides must now make their final case to the jury.

Monday morning, the judge will start by reading the first part of final jury instructions. The instructions are a reminder of all 53 charges Leonard faces and what the State has to prove in order for the jury to return a guilty verdict. It also includes definitions, such as the legal difference between "intentionally" and "knowingly" committing a crime.

Mark Leonard faces 53 total charges. Counts 1 and 2 are felony murder; counts 52 and 53 are murder, with "lesser included charges" of reckless homicide. That means the jury has three options for each of those two counts: guilty of murder, guilty of reckless homicide or not guilty.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will then deliver their closing arguments, which are expected to take the rest of the day. Jury deliberations will then begin first thing Tuesday morning.
State law says that once a case has been turned over to the jury, they cannot separate, which means they will be sequestered in a hotel from Monday night until they reach a verdict.

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