Mark Leonard receives 50-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder in murder-for-hire plot

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– For more than four years, the Richmond Hill case has occupied an outsized presence on the docket of Marion Superior Judge Shelia Carlisle.

The veteran jurist oversaw the charges versus five defendants and the various assignments, hearings, trials, plea agreements and sentencing of some or all of the accused.

The two lead conspirators, Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard, were tried, convicted and sentenced elsewhere.

Monserrate Shirley pleaded guilty before Judge Carlisle, as did Gary Thompson and Glenn Hults, and all three were sentenced to prison or jail terms for their roles in the insurance fraud explosion that rocked a southside Indianapolis community in 2012, damaged or destroyed more than 80 homes, cost more than $4 million to fix and took the lives of two neighbors.

Both Leonard brothers were sent to prison forever with no chance of parole, but Judge Carlisle never had the opportunity to see that the man behind the fatal plot paid a price for the crimes and tragedy he put in motion until Wednesday morning.

In hearing that lasted less than a half hour, the judge sentenced Mark Leonard to 50 years in prison, the term to run consecutively with his previous life without parole sentence, for trying to have an old friend and witness against him killed by an undercover federal agent he thought was a hit man.

Judge Carlisle termed Leonard’s conspiracy to commit murder plot, “callous,” for his making of phone calls from inside the Marion County Jail to the agent  in an attempt to silence Mark Duckworth, a friend of 20 years, to whom the defendant leaked details of his house explosion scheme a week before the fatal blast.

Leonard’s extensive criminal history, including convictions for stalking, battery on a police officer, theft, drugs, public indecency, drunk driving, insurance fraud, domestic violence and intimidation dating back to the early 1990s, bought him no favors with the judge.

Nor did Leonard’s conviction in 2015 for coercing Shirley and his half-brother and two other men into following his craven maniacal lead in an ill-conceived, failure-prone insurance fraud plot that seemed to escalate in its obsessive tragic potential and planning with each new setback.

“It appears that he has received virtually every sentence he could receive,” said Judge Carlisle from the bench, “and the defendant has continued his criminal behavior. His crimes were getting worse and more violent.”

When offered the chance, Leonard addressed the court, not to apologize or express remorse but rather to complain that a jailhouse informant, Robert Smith, failed to attend two sessions to provide depositions in the case as to his role in arranging the phone calls between the jailed Richmond Hill chief conspirator and the supposed killer-for-hire.

Leonard used legalistic references and language to complain that he was not allowed to face one of his accusers.

Smith was never actually called to testify in the hit man conspiracy trial.

His defense attorney assured the court that even though Leonard never claimed a previous religious affiliation, he has been a regular churchgoer since his permanent incarceration at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.

Deputy Prosecutor Luke Nikemap reminded the judge that Leonard told the federal agent he wanted Duckworth’s murder to appear as a suicide but only after forcing the targeted man to call 911 and confess to a dispatch operator that he had lied about Leonard’s role in the Richmond Hill explosion.

Judge Carlisle was unmoved by the defense arguments and termed the aggravating factors in sentencing as, “significant.”

“I think the court pointed out the fact that while he was in custody this was a witness against him, this was a friend of Mark Leonard’s, that that justified the enhanced sentence,” Niekamp told FOX59 News after the sentencing. “I believe this is the appropriate conclusion to the cases that have been going on for the last four years. I know that this has been a drawn out effort and the Prosecutors office believes that the community has reached the right resolution here by sentencing Mark Leonard. We believe that this is the appropriate conclusion to the case.”

The first judge to hear the evidence against Mark Leonard and the Richmond Hill conspirators has finally had the last word on his sentencing.

After Judge Carlisle pronounced the sentence, the alleged brains behind the blast was led from the defense table, no longer the swaggering, boisterous ladies man who bragged of his prowess in convincing women to finance his fantastic dreams and literally unbelievable lifestyle as a smooth talking, casino conning operator whose big payoff was always just over the horizon.

Instead Leonard shuffled off, clad in a red jail jumpsuit to denote his high security prisoner status, the shackles around his wrists and ankles jangling in the near silent courtroom, most likely never to breathe the free air of society again unless he makes good on his most recently announced skeptical promise of seeking an appeal of his conviction and sentence.

Meanwhile, in the hours after the pronouncement, Bob Leonard, serving his own life without parole term at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in western Indiana, placed another one of dozens of phone calls to FOX59 to plead his innocence and his disavowal of his half-brother’s deeds and demand the news media clear his name in a fashion that two experienced defense attorneys could not during his own trial.

The call went unanswered.

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