Hundreds Mark Year Since Deadly Indianapolis Blast

November 13, 2013

Hundreds of family members and neighbors have marked the one-year anniversary of a massive explosion that ravaged an Indianapolis neighborhood by singing and praying during a ceremony where the home of a couple killed in the blast once stood.

Many police officers, firefighters and medics joined the crowd Sunday night that walked along streets lined with luminaries in the Richmond Hill subdivision on the city’s far south side.

About 100 luminaries formed a flickering cross in the driveway of the home where Dion and Jennifer Longworth died when a neighboring house exploded. Dion Longworth’s sister and nephew lit candles inside a large heart made of more luminaries.

“Doing something very special for them is touching because I don’t want them to be forgotten,” Emily Voss told WISH-TV of her brother and sister-in-law.

About 30 homes were destroyed or had to be torn down after the Nov. 10, 2012, blast that damaged dozens of other houses. Homeowner Monserrate Shirley, her then-boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother, Bob Leonard, are awaiting trial on charges of murder and arson.

Authorities have said Shirley and the Leonards rigged a natural gas explosion in Shirley’s home in hopes of collecting insurance money. All three have pleaded not guilty.

A church choir sang hymns during Sunday’s ceremony, and Mayor Greg Ballard told the crowd that residents should be proud of rebuilding their neighborhood.

“Everybody in Indianapolis became a neighbor of Richmond Hill that night,” Ballard said.

About half of the neighborhood’s destroyed houses have since been rebuilt or are under construction.

“We are a community that does not give up,” resident Nikki Cocherell told WRTV. “This is family. This is home.”

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