Warrants Provide Insight Into Indy Explosion Probe

By CHARLES WILSON | April 12, 2013

Authorities investigating a fatal house explosion in Indianapolis were looking for evidence that three defendants researched methods of rigging the blast in an insurance fraud plot, according to search warrants a judge released Wednesday.

The documents, which had been sealed by the court until prosecutors requested their release, show investigators were looking for records of research into natural gas, ignition sources, home repairs on gas lines and bomb making.

Investigators asked the Indianapolis police cybercrime unit to bypass passwords and encryption try to recover data on computers and hard drives belonging to Mark Leonard, his girlfriend, Monserrate Shirley, and his brother, Bob Leonard, even if it had been erased.

Prosecutors say the three intentionally created a gas explosion in Shirley’s home in hopes of collecting insurance money.

Investigators believe Leonard and the others rigged the fatal explosion by removing a gas fireplace valve and gas line regulator so that the house filled up with natural gas, then set a microwave to start on a timer, sparking the blast.

A phone call went unanswered at the office of one of the defense attorneys.

Attorneys for Shirley and Mark Leonard want the trial moved. They say their clients can’t get a fair trial in Indianapolis because of public outrage, bias and media coverage.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry is seeking to have all three sentenced to life in prison without parole if they are convicted on murder, arson and conspiracy charges. Shirley also is charged with insurance fraud.

Prosecutors acknowledge “widespread publicity” in the case but say much of the publicity surrounding Shirley and her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, resulted from their public comments.

In a separate but related case, Mark Leonard is charged with trying to arrange the murder of a witness from the Marion County jail.

The next hearing in both cases is set for June 21.

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