Man sentenced to life without parole in deadly Indiana home blast

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 14, 2015 12:18 PM

(Reuters) - An Indiana judge on Friday sentenced a man to life in prison without parole for murder and arson when he tried to burn down a house for insurance money, an act that sparked an explosion that killed two neighbors, local media reported.

St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha handed down the sentence to Mark Leonard, 46, who was found guilty in July of all 53 charges against him, the Indianapolis Star newspaper reported.

In addition to the two deaths, dozens of people were injured in the explosion, which destroyed a house and severely damaged nearby homes in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Indianapolis on Nov. 10, 2012.

Prosecutors said the blast was caused by using a microwave oven on a timer to ignite natural gas that was allowed to build up in the house.

Leonard's former girlfriend, Monserrate Shirley, agreed to plead guilty, while three other men were charged in the case. Leonard and Shirley had lived in the house where the explosion occurred.

Prosecutors have said the personal property insurance was raised on the house, and photographs and personal financial records removed before the explosion, which took place on a weekend when Shirley and Leonard were away.

The case was moved to St. Joseph County court in South Bend because of media coverage of the case in Indianapolis.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien)