Another Trial in Deadly Indiana House Blast Tied to Insurance Fraud

By RICK CALLAHAN | January 20, 2016

The half brother of a man serving two life sentences in a deadly 2012 Indianapolis house explosion that devastated a subdivision is facing a weekslong trial for his alleged role in the blast, which prosecutors say was a scheme to collect a big insurance payout.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the trial of Bob Leonard, who faces two counts of murder as well as arson and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors allege Leonard, 57, took part in a plot involving four others to collect $300,000 in insurance by filling up the house of his half brother’s then-girlfriend with natural gas. A microwave apparently set to start on a timer sparked the Nov. 10, 2012, blast that killed neighbors Jennifer and John “Dion” Longworth and destroyed or damaged more than 80 homes.

Leonard’s half brother, Mark Leonard, was convicted in July of murder, arson and conspiracy charges and sentenced to two life sentences plus 75 years without parole. Authorities said he was the mastermind behind destroying the home of Monserrate Shirley and enlisted her, Bob Leonard and two other men.

Shirley pleaded guilty last year to two conspiracy charges. Her cooperation led to charges against two alleged co-conspirators, Glenn Hults and Gary Thompson, who face a joint June trial.

Shirley testified against Mark Leonard during his trial and is expected to do so against Bob Leonard, said Denise Robinson, a deputy Marion County prosecutor who will try the case, which was moved to northeast Indiana’s Allen County due to pretrial publicity.

Bob Leonard’s attorneys did not respond to requests from The Associated Press for comment.

His trial is expected to last about five weeks, include some 2,000 pieces of evidence and about 160 prosecution witnesses, Robinson said.

Robinson said she cannot characterize Bob Leonard’s precise alleged role until the trial starts, but noted it will differ from his half brother’s by relying more heavily on conspiracy law because Bob Leonard wasn’t the scheme’s alleged mastermind.

“In this case you’re dealing with someone we’ve alleged was brought into the situation, or hired into the situation, as opposed to someone who had the direct planning and the direct motive himself,” Robinson said.

Shirley testified that Mark Leonard told her that his half brother had agreed to help destroy her home for $10,000.

“He’ll do anything I ask,” Shirley said her then-boyfriend said of Bob Leonard.

Court documents filed with Shirley’s plea agreement indicate Bob Leonard may have helped remove a gas fireplace valve and a gas line regulator and may have set a microwave timer to ignite the explosion. Authorities allege there were two unsuccessful attempts to destroy Shirley’s home before the third attempt succeeded.

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