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Explosion leads to homicide probe; police offer reward for info

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INDIANAPOLIS — Police are now investigating the southside explosion that killed two people and damaged dozens of homes as a criminal homicide, and they are offering rewards for any information.

Gary Coons, chief of the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety’s Homeland Security division, said investigators have been trying to determine the cause of an explosion that killed a Greenwood elementary school teacher and her husband and damaged 86 homes in the Richmond Hill neighborhood, while the city also has led a recovery effort.

“At this time we’re here to inform you that we’re turning this into a criminal homicide investigation,” Coons said.

Investigators are particularly interested in any information about a white van that was spotted in the neighborhood the day of the explosion, or anyone inside the van.

No one has been arrested.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Indianapolis Fire Department, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will investigate the massive blast as a crime that someone committed, he said.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said the investigation is aimed at “determining if there are individuals who may be responsible for this explosion and fire.”

He declined to elaborate on why investigators wanted to know about the white van and said they wouldn’t comment on specifics of the investigation. He, Coons and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard declined to answer any questions when they announced the criminal investigation.

The couple lived next door to the house where investigators are focusing. The co-owner of that house, John Shirley, told The Associated Press he had received a text message from his daughter recently saying the furnace in the home, which she shares with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, had gone out.

Shirley’s ex-wife, Monserrate Shirley, said her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, had

replaced the thermostat recently, and the furnace had resumed working. The couple was away at a casino at the time of the blast. The daughter was staying with a friend, and the family’s cat was being boarded.

Monserrate Shirley’s attorney, Randall Cable, declined comment on the announcement Monday evening.

Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest in the case.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is offering up to a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Curry encouraged anyone with any information about the case to contact Crime Stoppers at 262-8477.

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