Richmond Hill trial: Week 2 recap

Mark Leonard
Published:
Updated:

June 19
Court is adjourned for Friday. It will resume with testimony Monday.

June 18, 5:43 pm

Filled with natural gas, Monserrate Shirley's home exploded with a force equal to tons of TNT - at least two and a half tons put perhaps as many as four tons, according the testimony of Citizens Energy vice president Christopher Braun.

Braun and other top executives of the utility went to the blast scene to shut off gas lines and assist investigators. They found the gas meter from Shirley's home buried in the debris, its readings frozen from the time of the explosion.

Based on those readings Braun told jurors "a substantial amount more gas passed through 8349 (Shirley's home) than any of the neighbors" - more than twice as much.

Braun analyzed seven and a half years of gas usage at the Shirley home, explaining to jurors a complicated statistical analysis. From the last meter reading taken 16 days before the explosion, he found a much higher than usual gas usage.

That excess consumption Braun testified had the explosive power of somewhere between 54 hundred and 82 hundred pounds of TNT.

Prosecutors are focusing on the police and fire investigation. Lead investigator Lt. Mario Garza explaining pictures of the crime scene showing investigators searching for evidence with shoves, rakes, little garden tools and their hands.

Jurors were also shown pictures of gas pipes from Shirley's home, missing a critical regulator. They also saw photos of a microwave oven, appearing as though it had exploded, and the remains of an aluminum bottle looking as if it had been blown open.

Prosecutors claim Mark Leonard was behind the plot to fill Shirley's home with natural gas, rigging the microwave to ignite a fire, destroying the home and enabling Monserrate Shirley to collect the insurance money.

Other Thursday notes:

Dirk Shaw, forensic scientist at Marion County Crime Lab Asked to test carpet samples to look for combustibles; received 8 cans - 7 scene samples and a comparative sample (SOP for carpet samples); Did not find any signs of ignition sources on the charred carpet samples

Received canister referenced by Lt. Garza; also given second bottle of similar composition, size, threaded top, overall style; a lot of corrosion inside the exploded bottle; charring was present, but only on a few centimeter wide area; bottle was bulging, expanded in an area, indicating pressure built up inside of it; expanded so much, some areas of the bottle had become paper thin; it definitely exploded

Most likely a flammable liquid inside of the exploded bottle, but non-flammable liquid could cause a bottle of that kind to explode as well based purely on a buildup of pressure; a microwave would be capable of creating that kind of heat and pressure

John Shirley, Monserrate's ex-husband, also testified Thursday. They were married from 1993 to 2011. John Shirley lived with Monserrate in the Richmond Hill home starting in early 2004. She got the house when the couple divorced in 2011.

When John Shirley learned of the explosion, he called his ex-wife.

"She said it was our house," he testfied, explaining that Monserrate Shirley was crying. "It freaked me out."

He called back, wanting to about their daughter's beloved cat, Snowball.

"I asked about the cat. She said she had him someplace. I thought that was odd," said Shirley.

Investigators say it was more than odd, claiming Monserate and Leonard removed their cat and most valuable possessions from the home, before leaving town the night before the explosion.

Special agents with the ATF also testified Thursday. Eric Jensen first went to the scene on the Wednesday after the explosion to help with interviews. He was later asked to help search for a gas valve (one of 20-30 people all searching for the same thing). He never found it. Jason Tortorici, another ATF special agent, interviewed John Shirley later.

Testimony will start again at noon on Monday.

June 18, 1:25 pm

Christopher Braum, Citizens Energy - VP of Energy Operations - testified Thursday. He explained how tests were performed to determine there were no gas leaks. Citizens Energy, state and federal authorities all supervised testing and all agreed Citizens equipment passed the tests.

Meters must read +/-2% to be considered accurate by state standards. Shirley's meter tested at +.1% on both high flow and low flow, so it was accurate When looking for a leak on residential system. They use liquid soap on the dial glass and look for bubbles (leaks would let gas form bubbles in the liquid); only a tiny leak was found, but Citizens, IURC, PHMSA & NTSB all agreed it was too small and ruled inconsequential to the explosion. (The leak would have been outside the house, not inside the house, to contribute to the explosion)

Two other meters on Fieldfare way were read to compare usage rates to Shirley's home usage leading up the the explosion. They concluded "substantially more gas passed through 8349 [Fieldfare Way, Monserrate's home] than any of the neighbors" in final billing period (Oct. 26 - Nov. 12) Also requested statistical analysis of historic usage (89 months) at 8349; 74ccf (100s of cubic feet) of gas usage was expected usage for that period; 101.2ccf would have been max expected used during that period; 208.9ccf was actual used (at least double the amount of what was expected went through the house); that much excess has the same explosive power as 2-4 tons of TNT.

Richmond Hill testimony: Interactive map

Baum testified that the meter was blown off Shirley's home, so the extra gas that continued to burn post-explosion during the fires would not have been counted by the meter.

During cross examination, Baum clarified the excess gas happened in the final billing period overall; meter reads cannot prove the exact day the gas was used.

The defense asked about reports of looting; those reports did require Baum's crews to leave the scene temporarily, but he was later told reports of looting were misinformation and his own experience showed the scene was well secured and he saw no evidence of looting when he returned.

IFD Lt. Mario Garza was recalled to the stand. Garza testified how his crews collected data from the Shirley home and neighboring homes. Firefighters searched other areas of the neighborhood also just in case debris had gone through there; firefighters were searching almost shoulder-to-shoulder through neighborhood (grass, bushes, streets, etc.). They also had Citizens run cameras through the sewers in case something fell there.

Garza described the search and collection process more thoroughly. Crews had to effectively peel through layer by layer, especially closer to the explosion site, because there was so much debris. Many items, evidence landed on top of other items of debris - items pertinent to the investigation were gathered and processed by crime scene techs. Items not needed for the investigation was put in dumpsters.

They treated and processed it as a crime scene even before being able to prove a crime happened just to be sure everything is done right from the start. Crews dug 14-16" below foundation level at the Shirley home to make sure they didn't miss anything. They couldn't use gas powered tools because they could leak and make investigators think there were signs of accelerants when there really weren't. They had to use hand tools and electric/battery powered tools instead.

Insurance forensic teams came later to research the area for their own purposes, but he supervised all their work; no one was ever looking through the scene without him there.

He confirmed the Maxitrol regulator was missing from Shirley's home system; also, all valves were in "on" position - the furnace, fireplace, water heater; the force of the explosion and debris falling on it may have slightly moved valves, but not much - they were all on at the time of the explosion.

An aluminum cylinder was found in area of microwave showing signs of something expanding/popping from inside it at some point. The microwave also appeared to have had a force inside of it of some kind that pushed its walls out (wasn't crushed by explosion or debris, rather walls were expanded out by something.)

June 18, 11:32 am

Citizens Gas' vice president told jurors Thursday that "substantially more gas passed through [Shirley's home] than any of the neighbors'" in the final billing period. The excess natural gas had the same explosive power as 2-4 tons of TNT. Shirley's home also used more than double its normal gas amount in that final billing period.

See all stories, videos and documents here.

June 18
John Shirley, Monserrate's ex-husband is expected to testify for prosecution Thursday in Mark Leonard's Richmond Hill trial. More federal and local investigators are also expected to testify when court resumes Thursday. Along with them, a Citizens Energy worker is expected to tell jurors the amount of natural gas that poured into the home prior to the explosion

June 17, 6:01 pm


Nick Polley with Citizens Energy oversaw the recovery of several major pieces of equipment evidence, including Shirley's meter, and subsequent delivery to secure lockup at Citizens Energy's operation center.

Dan Novak works in the IURC's office of pipeline safety. He focuses not on gas itself, but the transportation of materials - including gas - through pipelines, including home delivery. He personally arrived on the scene that Sunday afternoon to help move the investigation forward.

IURC performed pressure tests to ensure there were no leaks in Citizens Energy's lines. Novak showed a series of 37 photographs illustrating that process.

The IURC pressure tested gas lines at four homes - Shirley's home, one to the north and two to the south. Shirley's home meter was the only of the four able to be tested; the other three were too damaged. The gas valve was on at Shirley home, meaning gas would have been flowing to appliances inside.

Based on their testing, this was non-jurisdictional, meaning Citizens Energy did not have a leak and the issue was internal.

Anyone who has basic plumbing knowledge and a plumber's wrench could remove the internal regulator and replace it with black piping.

Prosecutors showed a video of a miniature model home made of plexiglass with a paper roof to demonstrate the flammability of natural gas. Gas was fed into the model, air was ventilated inside, an ignition was applied to cause the model to explode.

Neighborhood pipes feed gas at 30psi. The external regulator cuts that to 2psi. The internal Maxitrol regulator cuts that again to 6" (1/4psi, "lightly blowing through a straw.")

The Maxitrol regulator is typically found in a utility closet inside the home; it helps reduce gas psi to what your appliances need.

Jurors were shown a second video of with the sound of gas passing through gauge with and without a regulator, demonstrating the sound made in each case.

Cross examination

Videos showed a demonstration that has been used for years for personnel education and training, but the video itself was recorded within the past month at the request of the prosecution.

Curtis Popp, VP of customer operations at Citizens Energy - over meter readers, service personnel, dispatch Director of Shared Field Services at time of explosion.

Popp was notified of explosion just before midnight by emergency alert from company dispatch. He called in to dispatch to acknowledge he'd gotten the alert then called Paul Puckett to make sure he was going to the scene so he could coordinate their efforts.

His own initial reaction after arriving on scene: "It was beyond chaos; It was horrible."

Two main valves needed to be turned off to shut off gas to the area; the southern valve was shut off before they arrived; they made sure the northern one was turned off.

He repeated Puckett's testimony that a piece of pipe was in place where he would have expected to see a Maxitrol regulator at the Shirley home.

See all stories, videos and documents here.

June 17, 5:18 pm

Less than two hours after the blast, investigators digging through the debris of what was Monserrate Shirley's home retrieved its gas lines, meter and other components. They were following authorities' directions to shut down the natural gas system.

Paul Puckett, a Citizens Energy employee assisting investigators, noticed a critical safety mechanism was gone.

“It was missing a regulator…where was the regulator?” he testified.

A regulator drastically reduces the flow of natural gas as it moves from the street main into the home.

“Basically the regulator was removed and there was hard piping in its place,” he said.

Investigators claim Mark Leonard and his accomplices intentionally removed the regulator, created a gas leak, and then used a microwave oven to detonate the explosion. The plan, according to investigators, was to collect a $300,000 insurance policy.

Defense attorneys insist the explosion, which decimated the Richmond Hill neighborhood and killed the young couple living next door, was unintentional.

See all stories, videos and documents here.

Curtis Popp, who was director of shared field services for the utility, testified to what he saw.

“It was beyond chaos. It was horrible,” Popp said.

June 17, 1:22 pm


Paul Puckett currently oversees first responders for Citizens Energy. He was Director of Distribution and Transmission at the time of the explosion, so he also supervised those who went out and worked on mains.

Citizens was called by IFD on the day of the explosion; the first crew member responded per procedure and confirmed there were visual signs of an explosion, triggering a Code Red at Citizens, meaning more personnel and resources were immediately dispatched.

Citizens is required by law to notify PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) and Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission when gas-involved events happen in their jurisdiction; that notification happened at roughly 12:50 am.

The first job for Citizens on the scene of the explosion is to find the meter and regulator at the residence to shut off the source of gas; while they were looking for that, he noticed the regulator at Shirley's house was missing and a piece of hard piping was put in its place.

Puckett discussed the properties of natural gas and demonstrated how gas gets from service mains to homes. He said it was hard for him to get into the subdivision because of so many emergency personnel as well as debris blocked the way. Firefighters were still trying to put out fires at that point; gas was in the air, fueling fires. He focused on getting his people together to formulate a plan and conduced leak surveys in neighborhood.

Their leak survey process found no gas underground at the scene of the explosion, so a gas leak was not the cause. Puckett spent time explaining what elements are required to make a gas explosion occur.


See all stories, videos and documents here.

June 17, 11:17 am

IFD Lt. Mario Garza

Two-thirds of the Shirley home was gone when he arrived, the remainder was on fire. Looking up and down street, there were a lot of cars on the street. It was also late enough that most people would be at home, so he thought "this won't be good" (likely a lot of casualties). Bigger than any other case he'd run before (personnel, damage, evidence, etc). Saw all of the damage, but felt like he couldn't do much to help since he came straight from home and had no equipment. Said it was frustrating.

He Referenced the NFPA 921, which is a guidebook for fire investigations It discusses "Expectation Bias" and similar concepts and the need to avoid them.

The rosecutor established Lt. Garza knew what bias was before his investigation, and his methodology was the same as in every other case he's worked, just on a larger scale.

See all stories, videos and documents here.

Wednesday, June 17

Jurors will hear testimony Wednesday and be shown evidence that is highly technical, scientific and crucial to proving the prosecutor's case. Watch WTHR at noon for updates.

June 16, 5:47 pm

After the jury left the courtroom for the day, defense attorneys argued against a prosecution move made during testimony from the final witness of the day.

Prosecutors handed out binders with pictures referenced during IFD Lt. Mario Garza's testimony. Hundreds of pictures have been entered into evidence to this point, but all others were either projected onto a screen or expanded and printed onto presentation boards for the jury to see. This was the first time the jury was given individual copies of photos to have in their direct possession.

Defense attorneys argued the binders constituted special treatment and would cause those pieces of evidence to be weighed more heavily in the minds of the jurors than other evidence presented to them both before and after.

Defense attorney Diane Black argued the binders were prejudicial against defendant Mark Leonard and handing them out "goes against our client's right to a fair and impartial trial."

Judge John Marnocha disagreed, saying, "Everything the prosecution does is prejudicial against the defense and everything the defense does is prejudicial against the prosecution. That is the nature of the adversarial way we do business here."

He went on to say that to exclude any action or piece of evidence, attorneys must prove it is "unduly" prejudicial. Marnocha then cited Indiana's Jury Rule 23, which says that binders may be given to jurors for several reasons, including "copies of exhibits admitted for trial," which the photos in question had been.

He further said that all of the other photos admitted up to this point had been scene pictures to illustrate "victim impact" while the photos included in today's binders directly pertained to the investigation and helped jurors follow along with Lt. Garza's explanation of how his investigation was conducted.

All of that together, Judge Marnocha overruled the defense's objection, but charged attorneys on both sides to study case law to prove one way or the other how he should rule. He will hear those arguments tomorrow morning before the trial resumes at 9:30.

Recap:

1. Defense's cross of Lt. Garza will start tomorrow.

2. Even after cross tomorrow, Lt. Garza will be called again several times throughout the trial to testify on different aspects of his job. Today was initial impressions at the scene; later will be more on his findings, including gas flow.

3. Lt. Garza is marked as witness 100 on the state's list of 175 witnesses they plan to call.

4. We had some attorney arguments today after the jury left. It was complicated, though, so I'll send that to you separately to make sure I've clarified everything that needs to be clarified.

5. Testimony resumes tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.

June 16, 4:05 pm

Dr. Joye Carter, chief forensic pathologist at Marion County Coroner's office, performed the autopsies on Dion and Jennifer Longworth. 

Carter testified that Dion had extensive skin damage with more than 90 percent of his body burned. He died from inhaling hot gasses and soot (carbon monoxide poisoning).

Jennifer had extensive burns that were more focused on one side. The extensive change of pressure severely damaged her in inner ear, causing almost instant death. 

When federal and local investigators determined the explosion was intentional, the Longworths' deaths were ruled homicides.

June 16, 3:02 pm

Outside of court, the parents and other family members of Dion and Jennifer Longworth hugged and quietly thanked the firefighters who risked their lives trying to save the couple.

Private Richard Shirven took the witness stand, recalling that night in November 2012. His was the second fire truck to arrive in the Richmond Hill subdivision.

"It looked like a movie scene. It was total destruction," he testified.

Waiting residents immediately told them someone was trapped in the burning home next to the explosion. Before Shirven could see Dion Longworth, he heard him yelling from the basement: "It's so hot. It's so hot. Please get me out."

The firefighter explained the house had collapsed, trapping Longworth with two floors and a roof on top of him

Shriven reached through a small hole just slightly bigger than his arm, touching Dion but unable to pull him free.

"We were hand in hand, arm in arm. He knew what was going to happen," he said.

The flames forced Shirven to back off. A hose and water finally arrived but "by that time the area he was in was a ball of flame. He was gone," Shriven said.

The mothers of both Dion and Jennifer testified briefly. They identified pictures of their children for jurors, and how they learned of the explosion.

A daughter called Elaine Sgorcea telling to come to Indianapolis. On the way she learned her son had died.

June 16, 2:48 pm

Pvt. Richard Shirven, IFD

He was lying in a bunk at the firehouse when he heard an explosion so big they thought it was in the firehouse's back parking lot.

"Looked like a movie scene; total destruction."

He described Monserrate Shirley's home: "You couldn't tell it was a house, except for the driveway."

Shirven said he couldn't go into the front of the Longworth home because it was too heavily involved. He had to cross into the back and go in that way. He heard Dion Longworth yelling, "Help! I'm here!" and saw him through a hole in the debris, a small square area, about four or five inches by a foot.

"It's so hot, it's so hot! Get me out, get me out!" Shirven reported Dion as saying.

Dion wasn't hurt badly. He was "very mobile" and knew what was going to happen if they couldn't get him out. The hole was so small that Shirven could either look in or reach in to grab Dion, but not both.

The fire was very fast-moving and intense. There was only a minute or so from the time firefighters pulled back from trying to help Dion until the house collapsed and he was dead.

Elaine Sgorcea, Dion's mother, says her daughter called to tell her about the explosion. A second phone call confirmed that Dion had died.

Nancy Buxton, Jennifer Longworth's mother, got a call from Dion's father saying they'd heard something happened and asking if they knew anything. She turned on the television to watch the news, and started calling hospitals. Dion's father asked them to meet at Mary Bryan Elementary School. The coroner met them there early the next morning and told them that two bodies had been discovered. It was later confirmed that Dion and Jennifer Longworth had perished in the explosion and fire.

Bryan Hedrick with IFD says the fire station shook and his glasses were knocked off his head. Even before the calls started coming in, crews got in an engine and started heading towards the smoke. They found Shirley's house destroyed - to the point where they wondered if a house had ever been on the lot. Houses on either side were in flames. They used the engine's internal tank to start fighting the fires. By the time they were down to half a tank, another engine arrived with a supply line from a hydrant. It took "well into the next day" before all the fires were out. His crew was relieved approx. 5:30 the next morning.

Tuesday, June 16, 11:19 am

Patrick Crosley
8337 Fieldfare Way

Lived with wife and 2 kids (ages 14 & 12). None were at home at the time. Friend approached them while at church fundraiser to tell them what happened. By the time they arrived, emergency crews wouldn't let them into the subdivision.Their garage door was blown in, resting against a car in the garage. The home's entire ceiling fell in on the lower level and several walls were blown out. The home's top floor shifted and twisted so it was out of line with the bottom floor. The entire house lifted up off foundation about three inches. Insurance valued at $232,000. The family moved out and the home was demolished, although they still own the lot.

He saw Monserrate Shirley at a meeting several days later at Southport Presbyterian. He was as upset as everyone else. Others comforted her and asked if there was anything they could do for her.

Kevin Cole
8403 Fieldfare Way - next door to Longworths

He lived with his wife and college-aged daughter. He and his wife were home at the time of the explosion, laying in bed, but not entirely asleep yet. "There was a tremendous explosion, the loudest thing I've ever heard," he said while starting to choke up.

They thought it was a bomb. The home's ceiling collapsed. Cole said time expanded and it felt like 5 minutes. He rolled over to try to protect his wife from debris and the collapsing ceiling.

All of the home's windows were blown out. He ooked out and saw people starting to mill about. Their bedroom was on the far side of the house. If it had been on the same side facing Shirley's home, Cole said "It could have been much worse."

He tried to open the front door, but it wouldn't open. A passing neighbor helped kick it in. Haw Longworth's home. It was gone. "Just a pile of rubble," Cole said.

Cops said to leave, and Cole turned around and saw their house was on fire. "We had the unique experience of watching our house burn."

"I'll never forget this," Cole said. A firefighter unloading a hose from a fire truck "actually had a panicked look on his face. I never expected to see that."

Cole and his family went to Mary Bryan Elementary, then stayed with friends in Zionsville. Insurance valued at $250-280,000 Rebuilt at same location. Never completely broke down crying, but did have to choke out much of his testimony as he held back tears.

Glenn Olvey (father)
8343 Fieldfare Way - next door to Shirley Lived with wife and 2 kids, all at home watching TV "Basically, everything exploded."

Heard one daughter behind him screaming, but didn't know where anyone else was. He was able to get out, with a lot of help,"After what seemed like an eternity, it was actually 10-15 minutes." He finally found the rest of his family. Glenn suffered a concussion and mild puncture wounds.

Glenn sold the lot nearly two months ago. Insurance valued at $180,000 for home and $150,000 for contents.

Gloria Olvey (mother)
8343 Fieldfare Way

"I felt something hit me in the side of the face, watched the roof fall down on me," she said.

One daughter said she was bleeding from the head. Gloria had a cell phone with her and tried calling 911, but got a busy signal twice. Gloria got her to focus on getting out and asking neighbors for help. Neighbors used a 2x4 to help lift the roof off her lap, then others pulled her out of the chair she'd been sitting in.

The 2x4 went through her calf. She had more stitches on her arm and numerous puncture wounds from nails. She heard hissing coming from a gas meter on the Shirley house the night before explosion. She checked it out, but didn't see vapor or smell anything, so she shrugged it off, and didn't call the gas company or police.

Katherine Olvey (daughter)
8343 Fieldfare Way

"Everything just sort of went dark...I thought the power had just gone out, then I could feel I was bleeding from my head so I started to panic a little bit."

Neighbors started digging through the house. She called out for help, and also told them other family members were still there.

She got stitches in her neck and cheek and had a cut on top of head. The scar is still there. She also got titches in one leg, just below the knee. She thought she'd smelled propane throughout the week, and especially the day before and day of the explosion. She told an adult, but didn't specify who.

Lt. Dean Teagardin, IFD

At time of explosion, he was senior officer on Ladder 33 (ladders focus on saving lives while engines focus on putting out fires). He was watching the Notre Dame game from bed at the firehouse. The blast knocked him forward in bed Richmond Hill neighborhood within a mile of firehouse as the crow flies. He and other firefighters immediately went to the rear of firehouse and saw a mushroom cloud of explosion from the area of the neighborhood, though not exactly sure of address. They started getting trucks ready, knowing they were about to get the call. First dispatch came from another area because residents outside the neighborhood also felt the explosion, thinking they had felt an explosion, as well. After confirming there was no second explosion there, he moved on to Richmond Hill. He parked outside the first house south of the explosion site. It was 80 percent involved The second house was 15 percent involved. He was immediately mobbed by five residents saying someone was trapped in the first house. He saw him waist up, tried to get him out, but it was like he was in a box. He could move side to side, but couldn't get out. Breaking protocol, Teagardin tried removing his air mask to see if that would help him reach Dion better, but immediately had to put it back on because of extreme heat.

Tuesday, June 16
The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Jurors are expected to hear emotional testimony from the neighbors closest to the incident, as well as the mothers of Dion and Jennifer Longworth, those killed in the explosion.

June 15, 8:45 pm
A defense request to put the Richmond Hill trial on hold was denied Monday.

Diane Black, lead defense attorney for Mark Leonard, filed a motion for continuance after one of the prosecution's expert witnesses admitted he made an error in his calculations related to gas flow in the Richmond Hill neighborhood on the night of the explosion. Her chief complaint was that the revised calculations had not yet been made available to the defense.

Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson said her team doesn't have the final calculations yet, either, because the expert witness won't have them ready until Wednesday. She also countered that the new calculations won't affect the trial in the long run because they aren't drastic enough to affect the final computer model he put together.

Still, Black insisted her team needed the new information before testimony continued, specifically before she cross examined a representative from Citizens Energy.

"We're put in a very precarious position because this new evidence is critical to the case, she said. "It's about gas flow rates, and the State's case is that gas was made to flow into the residence so the house would explode."

In the end, Judge John Marnocha sided with prosecutors and denied the request for a continuance. He did, however, agree to delay testimony on the day the expert witness is set to appear in order to hold an evidentiary hearing so he can hear the change in calculations for himself.

June 15, 6:50 pm
Tony Burnett lived directly across the street from Monserrate Shirley's home, which was the site of the explosion. He was watching the Notre Dame game when "walls started falling in; ceilings started falling in." He said things slow down when you go through something like this: "felt like it lasted 10 seconds"

Burnett testified that his ears rang on and off for several days after the blast. His front door was blown in and he lost four vehicles. Burnett said he saw a white van and specifically named Mark Leonard as its owner. He said he saw two men entering the van and quickly pulling out of the driveway on the afternoon of the explosion, although neither was Mark Leonard.

Mavles Baier, another neighbor, was watching TV when "the house sort of vibrated then there was a big boom." The front and back doors were blown out. Baier went outside and saw Shirley's home destroyed and fire burning through others. Baier went to check on her daughter, who lived behind Shirley. The back side of the home had caved in. Repairs to her home took five months.

Garrett Schout was at home with his wife and four children, ages 6 to 10. Everyone was asleep when "it shook the entire house; it blew glass everywhere." The blast formed cracks along all the walls, and all mirrors and plates were destroyed.  His oldest son was blown out of his bunk bed and got a bloody nose.

Schout said he thought it was tornado, and since his family had run tornado drills to move to the center of the home with a pillow and blanket,they enacted that plan. After figuring it wasn't a tornado, Schout went outside. The sky was glowing red and ash was raining from the sky, burning his shirt. Schout, a freelance photographer, took photos that were shown in court.

Schout said he went a long way to get out of the neighborhood because they didn't want their children to see the destruction. Insurance valued his damage at $156,000.

Ryan Cox, a firefighter, was at home on Fieldfare Way. His family was asleep when he heard a rush of noise resembling a car crashing into the house. It knocked him out of bed onto the floor. He said his front yard was filled with insulation from surrounding homes and he saw neighbors coming out of homes "in a daze, resembling zombies."

Cox ran out to start checking on neighbors.

Insurance valued the damage at $250,000. He received medical treatment for smoke inhalation for six months after the explosion and had to get an inhaler.

Edgar Salas, another neighbor, says the blast blew a hole in his living room wall and caused $361,000 in damage. He testified that his wife got a call from Monserrate Shirley and spoke to her for no more than a minute, and that he also spoke with Shirley. His wife said Shirley was hysterical and couldn't tell what she was saying.

"I can't tell what she's saying, I don't know what she wants," his wife told him. His wife told Shirley, "We're glad you're alive. Something happened to your home. When you can gather yourself enough, you should come home."

"There was a black void where that [Shirley's] house used to be," he testified.

Salas knew that Shirley's boyfriend, "Mark," had been staying at Shirley's home recently.  He identified a white van as having been around the house a lot recently and saw it there on the day of the explosion.


June 15, 2:39 pm

MONDAY WITNESS TESTIMONY

Jurors heard from neighbors who tried to help John Dion Longworth in his dying moments.

Bryan Hollingsworth, who lives on Alcona Drive, testified that he and his wife were home, dozing off while watching the Notre Dame football game when he heard the "loudest sound I've ever heard in my life."

After the explosion, Hollingsworth found glass everywhere downstairs because the blast had blown open the kitchen cabinets and ejected all of their contents, showering his wife and dog with shattered glass.

He saw saw a fire in sky outside and what appeared to be snow - which was actually ash - raining down.

Hollingsworth, leaving his destroyed home, and looking toward the blast sight made a terrible discovery.

"There was something very wrong at the Longworth home," he testified.

Hollingsworth testified that the Longworth home was only standing about seven feet tall at that time, but was originally a two-story home. 

"Is anyone there?" he shouted. From the basement, John Dion Longworth answered

"'I'm here. I'm trapped!'" Longworth said.

"We couldn't find him," Hollingsworth said.

Then, through a hole the size of a basketball, Hollingsworth saw Dion's face.

He asked, "How is my wife? She's upstairs in the bedroom," and "Are you guys going to be able to help me?"

"I was hesitant to say there was no upstairs," Holllingsworth explained.

See all stories, videos and documents here.

As other neighbors ran to get a firefighter to the scene, Hollingsworth said he saw a horrific orange-yellow glow behind Dion. He tried to keep Dion's attention on him so he didn't see the fire behind him.

"Firemen were very, very panicked," he said. The fire "literally engulfed the house in a matter of seconds."

A firefighter ordered Hollingsworth to leave. When he reached the sidewalk, he saw the entire home was engulfed in fire. The house later "pancaked on itself."

Bryan Hollingsworth's entire home shifted off the foundation to 3/4" south and 1/2" east. The force of the explosion blew through his home to hit a neighbor's home. Insurance valued the damage at $350,000.

Eileen Browne also lives on Alcona Drive. She, her husband, their oldest daughter and the daughter's fiancée were home that night. They were watching the Notre Dame game when the explosion "literally threw us off our couches. 

"I saw the walls of my house literally go in and out," said Browne, who thought a car had crashed into house. When her family checked outside and looked down the street, she saw everyone stumbling out of their houses.

Browne's mother lived in another house in the neighborhood. She took off running in just socks to check on her. She says her mother was shocked and stressed and never really overcame it. Brown says the experience accelerated her mother's dementia and she was eventually placed in a nursing home.

Sara Vitaniemi lives on Towhees Drive. Her home was deemed beyond repair and had to be demolished. The insurance paid out $210,000.
Spencer Lloyd is the grandson of Vera Sittler, who has since moved to South Carolina from Towhees Drive. He testified that she was very disturbed by the explosion. She was thrown from her bed and injured her arm and chest, and traumatized by the event, repeating, "What am I going to do" over and over.

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Vicky Koerner lived on Alcona Drive, and she was home with her husband and daughter. He 17-year-old son was driving back home when he saw the explosion and thought it was a terrorist attack. Koerner testified that she'd "never heard him scream like that before." The family had to leave their home out the back because they couldn't get the front door open due to the damage. While they were going out back, their son ran to the home next to the explosion.
When he got back, "He collapsed on the ground. He was sobbing," she said.

Koerner testified that the family tried to help other neighbors that night, and others helped them get to a staging area at Mary Bryan Elementary School. Their oldest daughter then picked them up and took them to her house.

Stephen Pridemore, a retired police officer, lives on Alcona Drive. He and his wife were both home and had just fallen asleep when they awoke to chaos. Pridemore said he didn't hear anything but felt the blast's percussion through the room.

Once at the scene, he says he encouraged people to back away from the area in case of a secondary explosion. A neighbor called for help because John Dion Longworth was trapped. Firefighters tried to help and even got ahold of Longworth, but couldn't get him out because the basement was too deep. The ceiling above him soon collapsed because of the fire, killing Longworth.

Pridemore's home sustained $285,000 worth of damage.

Monday, June 15
The trial resumes Monday after a three-day weekend. More residents of the Richmond Hill neighborhood will testify.

Prosecutors have questioned roughly 60 witnesses and shown jurors hundreds of pieces of evidence, most of them pictures and videos of the destruction from the night of the explosion to the aftermath days later.

Denise Robinson Deputy Prosecutor says the trial is moving along on schedule.

Prosecutors, though, are just getting started, with just one week completed in a trial expected to last more than a month.

To prove their case, they must convince jurors the fiery blast that destroyed Monserrate Shirley's home was no accident, that a gas leak was intentional and then show as investigators claim, Mark Leonard led the scheme to collect on a $300,000 insurance policy.

Dozens of victims have testified about the fear, the physical destruction, and financial losses caused by the blast, losses stimated at $4 million dollars, and most tragically, the deaths of Dion and Jennifer Longworth.

Each witness's testimony is literally bringing jurors closer to the blast scene.

Some of the testimony listened to so far has been emotional and difficult hear. That will become even more so as the evidence and the case moves closer to the site of the explosion and the murders of a young couple.

Read updates and watch video from week one of Mark Leonard's Richmond Hill trial.

Follow this page for updates from South Bend, where the trial for Mark Leonard, one of five accused in the deadly 2012 Richmond Hill explosion, is underway. Read a week one recap here.

Case background: Mark Leonard, 46, is on trial for his role as the alleged mastermind of a plot of blow up the house of his then-girlfriend, Monserrate Shirley, in order to collect $300,000 in insurance. Shirley will testify against him in exchange for a reduced sentence. Mark Leonard faces 46 counts of arson, two counts of conspiracy to commit arson and one count of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Leonard's half-brother Bob Leonard is also accused in the plot, along with two others. Jennifer Longworth, 36, and her husband, John Dion Longworth, 34, died in the blast.