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Judge grants change of venue for 1 of 3 defendants in deadly Indianapolis house explosion

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INDIANAPOLIS — A judge granted a change of venue Wednesday for the trial of one defendant in a deadly Indianapolis house explosion after prosecutors dropped their objection.

Marion Superior Court Judge Sheila Carlisle granted the request for Mark Leonard, who faces murder, arson and conspiracy charges in connection with the November 2012 blast that killed two people and destroyed or damaged dozens of houses on the city's south side.

Deana Martin and Diane Black, the public defenders appointed to represent Leonard, had introduced stories from Indianapolis television stations and The Indianapolis Star as evidence of the media saturation they say would make it hard to assemble an impartial jury.

Prosecutors stipulated to the change of venue Wednesday on the third day of a hearing on the venue request. Carlisle had taken the unusual step of assembling test juries to gauge the public's knowledge about the case.

"Virtually everyone is aware of the circumstances," Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said after Carlisle granted the change.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Leonard's trial would be moved to another county or a jury imported to Indianapolis. It also was unclear whether venue also would change for the two other defendants, Leonard's former girlfriend, Monserrate Shirley, and his brother, Bob Leonard. Each defendant will be being tried separately on identical charges.

Prosecutors have said the three rigged the blast in Shirley's home as part of a scheme to collect $300,000 in insurance. The explosion killed a married couple who were neighbors of Shirley.

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