Defendant in Indy Blast Hires High Profile Lawyer

January 14, 2013

A high profile attorney has been hired to represent one of three persons charged with causing the deadly gas explosion that devastated an Indianapolis neighborhood and killed a couple.

Indianapolis attorney James Voyles will represent Monserrate Shirley, whose home in a neighborhood on the city’s south side exploded on Nov 10. Shirley, 47; her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, 43; and his brother, Robert Leonard Jr., 54, were charged in December with murder, arson and conspiracy. The blast destroyed 33 homes and killed a couple living next to Shirley’s house.

Voyles’ past clients have included boxer Mike Tyson and former Colts quarterback Art Schlichter. The Associated Press left messages seeking comment at Voyles’ office Saturday.

Shirley’s former attorney, Randy Cable, told The Indianapolis Star on Friday that he was told Shirley’s family wanted a “second opinion.” Cable said the family sought Voyles against his advice.

“I was not in favor of the change,” Cable said.

It wasn’t clear where Shirley would get the money to hire Voyles. Investigators said Shirley and Mark Leonard rigged the explosion to get about $300,000 in insurance money after gambling away thousands of dollars and amassing substantial credit card debt. Other lawyers suggested that Shirley’s family might help pay her legal bills.

Jack Crawford, a former prosecutor who now works as a defense attorney in Indianapolis, said Voyles’ reputation is solid.

“Mr. Voyles is a skilled lawyer,” Crawford said. “And if there’s a defense he will find it.”

Voyles’ list of past clients includes some notable sports figures, including basketball coach Bob Knight, race-car driver Al Unser Jr., and NBA greats Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas.

Voyles defended Tyson in 1991, when a jury in Indianapolis convicted him of one count of rape and two counts of criminal deviate conduct for a 1991 assault of a Miss Black America contestant. He also represented Schlichter, who was sentenced last May to nearly 11 years in prison for taking thousands of dollars from his victims for never delivering college and NFL game tickets.

The next court appearance for Shirley and the Leonard brothers is Feb. 21. Their trial is set for March 4.

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