SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

December 22, 2012

House owner, 2 others accused of plotting blast

The woman who owns the house that exploded last month in Indianapolis, leveling much of the neighborhood and leaving two people dead, was arrested yesterday along with two others, authorities said, and all three were charged with murder.

Monserrate Shirley, 47; her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, 43; and his brother, Bob Leonard Jr., 54, are accused of intentionally leaking natural gas into the house and then using the kitchen’s programmable microwave to trigger the blast.

They were arrested six weeks after the fiery blast rocked the Richmond Hill subdivision, damaging 33 houses so severely that the city ordered them razed.

Killed in the blast were Jennifer Longworth, 36, and her husband, John “Dion” Longworth, 34, who lived next door to Shirley. The explosion injured 12 other people and caused an estimated $4 million in damage.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said yesterday that investigators believe the Nov. 10 explosion at Shirley’s home, which blew from the inside out, was ignited by the microwave after gas was intentionally leaked into the home for hours.

“We are here today to discuss a thoroughly, thoroughly senseless act which has resulted in the deaths of two young adults in the prime of their life,” he said at a news conference.

Shirley and the Leonards were also charged with multiple counts of arson and one count of conspiracy to commit arson. She and Mark Leonard were charged with an additional count of conspiracy to commit arson in connection with what prosecutors say was an earlier failed attempt to blow up the same house.

About a week before the blast, Mark Leonard told a friend over the phone that “the house blew up,” according to court documents. Later that day, Leonard allegedly told the friend in another call that he was scanning Craigslist to buy a Ferrari with money from an insurance policy.

Last year, Shirley increased the coverage limit for her personal property inside the home to $304,000, according to the court documents.

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