INDIANAPOLIS — The three people charged with murder and arson after a deadly explosion in a southside subdivision could face life in prison but not the death penalty.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said Monday that his office is asking for life sentences without parole for homeowner Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother, Bob Leonard Jr.
The prosecutor’s office also filed additional felony charges against each member of the trio for damage caused to homes that did not have to be torn down and against Mark Leonard and another man for an unrelated case of insurance fraud.
Investigators believe someone removed a natural gas valve on the fireplace, let gas build up in the home for six to nine hours and ignited it with a spark from a microwave oven, which could be set on a timer, in order to blow up the house and collect insurance money.
They each face multiple felony charges that include two counts of murder for the deaths of Jennifer and John Longworth. The Greenwood Southwest Elementary School teacher and her husband lived next door and were killed in the massive blast that also injured 12 people, decimated much of the far-southside neighborhood and displaced dozens of residents.
Indianapolis attorney James Voyles, who represents Shirley, did not return messages Monday. Public defenders Deanna Martin, who represents Mark Leonard, and Ted Minch, who represents Bob Leonard, also did not return messages
Shirley and the Leonards could have faced the death penalty because of aggravating circumstances, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The murder charges in this case could result in death or life without parole because the murders were committed by the unlawful detonation of an explosive device, more than one person died and John Longworth died as the result of coming into contact with fire, according to a statement by the prosecutor’s office.
Under Indiana law, a conviction on a murder charge results in a minimum sentence of 45 years unless there are aggravating factors and the prosecutor specifically requests death or life without parole.
“The intentional acts of the defendants, as alleged, were undertaken with no regard whatsoever to the tragic consequences which did in fact flow from a scheme to blow up the Shirley residence. Those alleged acts, if proven, thus justify that the defendants spend life in prison with no option for parole,” Curry said in a news release.