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Workers continue cleanup efforts

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INDIANAPOLIS — While workers continue to tear down their neighbors’ houses, many residents of the devastated Richmond Hill neighborhood have strung Christmas lights and hung up Colts horseshoes as they try to get their lives back to normal.

Workers have razed 14 homes in the southside neighborhood that were deemed unsafe to live in. The city has issued 22 demolition permits, but some of the homeowners still are working to arrange for contractors to do the work.

Whole rows of lots sit empty and fenced off near the blast site on Fieldfare Way, where a massive explosion killed Greenwood Southwest Elementary School teacher Jennifer Longworth and her husband, Dion Longworth, and caused about $4.4 million in damage to 90 homes.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry charged homeowner Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother Robert Leonard with two counts of murder, conspiracy to commit arson and multiple counts of arson.

The last two homes slated for demolition belonged to the Longworths and Shirley, which had not yet been demolished because investigators had not cleared them since evidence still could be gathered from the debris, Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement spokesman Al Ensley said.

Dozens of families are in temporary housing while their homes on Fieldfare Way, Alcona Drive, Towhees Drive and Andrusia Lane are razed or repaired.

The city’s goal was to demolish 33 structurally damaged homes by Thursday, but code enforcement is giving homeowners more time so they don’t get gouged by having to hire contractors on short notice, Ensley said. Two homeowners successfully appealed to have their homes repaired and saved, but the city denied an insurance company’s request to salvage a third house that was slated to come down because the owner wanted it demolished.

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