Not guilty pleas entered for three suspects in Indianapolis blast

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 24, 2012 12:43 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - An Indianapolis judge Monday entered not guilty pleas on behalf of three people charged in the November house explosion that killed two people and damaged scores of homes, officials said.

Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard, who lived in the home that exploded, and Leonard's brother, Bob Leonard Jr., were charged last week with murder and multiple counts of arson.

Investigators said the three blew up Shirley's home to collect insurance money to pay off gambling and credit card debts.

Killed in the blast were Jennifer and John Longworth, who lived next door. Twelve people were injured and 33 neighborhood homes had to be demolished, prosecutors said.

The pleas were entered by Marion County Superior Court Judge Sheila Carlisle, according to Brienne Delaney, a spokeswoman for the Marion County Prosecutor's office. It is typical in Indiana for a judge to enter pleas on suspects' behalf, Delaney explained.

Shirley's attorney, Randall Cable, said he was awaiting information on prosecutors' evidence against his client.

"We're waiting to receive discovery from the prosecutors to see what they have beyond a lot of innuendo," Cable said.

The Leonards had public defenders appointed for them.

Investigators believe a programmable microwave that exploded from the inside out was the source of ignition, and valves that regulate natural gas into the home and to a fireplace were removed, allowing gas to build up over hours.

The personal property insurance on the home had been raised recently to $304,000 and photographs and personal financial records were removed before the explosion, prosecutors allege.

All three suspects are being held without bond. They could face the death penalty or life without parole if found guilty.

A trial is set for March 4.

(Reporting By Mary Wisniewski; editing by Jim Marshall)