Closing arguments set for house explosion trial

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Prosecutors and defense attorneys are set to make closing arguments in the trial of a man charged with helping plot a massive Indianapolis house explosion that killed two people and destroyed or damaged more than 80 homes.

Bob Leonard pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, among other charges, in connection with the November 2012 blast.

Mug shot of Bob Leanord provided by WISH-TV.
Mug shot of Bob Leanord provided by WISH-TV.

Leonard did not take the witness stand Friday as the defense spent about a half hour presenting testimony after jurors heard 16 days of testimony from prosecution witnesses.

His trial was moved to Fort Wayne due to extensive media coverage in Indianapolis.

Prosecutors allege that Leonard took part in a plot involving four others to collect $300,000 in insurance by destroying his half-brother’s girlfriend’s house by filling it with natural gas. A microwave apparently set to start on a timer sparked the blast, which heavily damaged the neighborhood and killed neighbors Jennifer and John “Dion” Longworth.

Leonard’s half-brother, Mark Leonard, is serving two life sentences after being convicted in July on murder, arson and other charges. Authorities said he was the mastermind behind the plot, which they say also included his girlfriend at the time, Monserrate Shirley, Bob Leonard and two other men.

Shirley, who pleaded guilty last year to two conspiracy charges, faces a prison sentence of 20 to 50 years.

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

Shirley testified earlier this month that Bob Leonard was brought into the plot after a first attempt to burn down her house failed in October 2012.

She told the court that when she asked him about the explosion that killed her next-door neighbors, he replied: “Oh well, they died. You were in it. You talk, we talk.”

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