Monserrate Shirley sentenced to maximum 50 years in prison

Monserrate Shirley walked into court for the second day of her sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016 (WTHR photo)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A judge sentenced Monserrate Shirley to 50 years in prison Monday for her role in the Richmond Hill explosion.

The 2012 blast killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth, and damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes.

Shirley admitted to helping plan the explosion in order to collect the $300,000 insurance policy.

She struck a plea deal and testified against her accomplices, in exchange for prosecutors dropping all but two charges. Under that deal, could be sentenced for anywhere from 20-50 years on prison and the judge could suspend any or all of that time so she would effectively serve probation.

Almost all of her former neighbors hoped she would get the maximum 50 year penalty. When she did, many of them sighed in relief and approval almost in unison.

"Finally," Glen Olvey said after the sentence was read. "It's finally over. Four years to the day."

"I'm glad that we got the maximum sentence and there's no joy in any of it," added Don Buxton, Jennifer Longworth's father. "Our kids are still gone but I don't ever think about [Shirley] in any way, but now I really don't have to think about her anymore."

"In the end, nothing has changed," said John Longworth, Dion's father. "Dion and Jennifer are still gone. I still miss them. This person will go off to prison and I'll almost forget about her."

Before handing down her decision, the judge scolded Shirley saying, "But for Monserrate Shirley, none of this would have happened, none of us would be here today, Jennifer and Dion Longworth would be alive....You obviously knew the dangers of the situation."

Neighbors and loved ones of the Longworths showed up for the second day to follow the case. Many wore yellow ribbons in honor of Dion & Jennifer's favorite color.

More than 20 testified Monday. Another four testified Tuesday, including Dion's older sister who was, herself, a victim of domestic violence.

She looked at Shirley and said she managed to get out, then asked, "I don't understand how you let this man-- why did you let him blow up your house?"

A former neighbor in their testimony said, "I wanted her dead. I wanted revenge."

Shirley wept quietly. At times, she shook. Her attorney tried to quiet her.

He called in a clinical forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Stephanie Calloway, who testified that Shirley's father was extremely abusive, a con artist and alcoholic - very similar to her co-conspirator and boyfriend at the time, Mark Leonard. Dr. Calloway said Shirley's idea of a loving relationship is very different from what others would envision, which left her caught in a cycle of domestic violence and unable to break free.

Shirley did not testify on her own behalf, but she did read a statement to the court. She said, in part, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I wish I could take all of this back. This tragedy will never disappear from my heart, my soul."

Neighbors and relatives we spoke with after she read that statement had mixed reactions to it - some believing her, some not.

"If she really is apologetic then I accept the apology," John Longworth said. "I don't believe in vengeance and I know that my son is not a person that would accept vengeance and things. He didn't live that way."

After her sentence was handed down, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry released a statement, which read, in full:

"We respect the Court’s decision ordering Monserrate Shirley to serve a fifty-year prison sentence for her participation in this senseless conspiracy. Ms. Shirley ultimately took responsibility for her actions by pleading guilty and provided important information during the investigation. Her role in the plan and execution of this act protected her own child and the family pet, but failed to consider the obvious danger it presented to anyone else.

"We again offer our condolences to the families of Dion and Jennifer Longworth and to those who suffered injury and loss. No one involved in this investigation or prosecution will forget the stories of this tragedy and the continuing fear and trauma that it caused to the survivors. During the course of this lengthy process, we have sincerely appreciated the cooperation and patience of these families.

"As stated previously, the investigation and prosecution of this matter has literally taken tens of thousands of hours of effort by numerous individuals. I commend Det. Jeffrey Wager and IMPD investigators, Lt. Mario Garza and IFD investigators, agents of the Federal ATF, and our trial team for their commitment and perseverance to bring justice for the Richmond Hill residents."

With good behavior, Shirley could be released at the age of 71.