State presents photos, pieces of evidence to jury in Richmond Hill trial

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (June 23, 2015)-- Evidence literally piled up in Judge John Marnocha's South Bend courtroom as Marion County prosecutors continued the presentation of their case against lead Richmond Hill co-conspirator Mark Leonard.

Live blog: Go inside the courtroom with CBS4.

Some of the items introduced in court may very well be evidence of the conspiracy to intentionally destroy the home of Leonard's girlfriend in an insurance fraud scheme.

Other evidence may be for comparison while some items that could be expected to be discovered are missing and could be also be an indication of the preparation of the conspiracy.

Leonard faces more than 50 charges related to the explosion that rocked a southside Indianapolis neighborhood two-and-a-half years ago, leveling Monserrate Shirley's house and killing two neighbors.

The State says Leonard masterminded the plot in pursuit of a fraudulent $300,000 house insurance payoff.

Former Marion County crime lab technician Lisa Liebig continued her testimony from the day before when she explained to jurors how she documented and photographed more than 300 pieces of evidence found in and near "ground zero" at 8349 Fieldfare Way.

As Liebig testified, prosecutors showed remnants of that night, including a gas valve key and a thermostat and operations manual.

Photographs of electrical wiring, gas piping, concrete cores drilled from the foundation of Shirley's house and carpet samples from the living room of the home she shared with Leonard, fireplace elements and a water heater and furnace were shown to the jury.

Some of the items can be directly tied to Shirley's house, others are from surrounding homes but their value may be proof of their intended use and proper installation that night while similar missing or altered items from Shirley's house could be used as evidence of tampering that led to the blast.

Evidence introduced Monday included the wreckage of a microwave oven that would appear to have been exploded from the inside out.

Investigators theorize that it was a metal cannister filled with flamable material that exploded inside the oven, triggering the larger blast that obliterated Shirley's house with the power of more than three tons of TNT, partially collapsed and engulfed in flames the homes of neighbors, caused $4.4 million in losses, damaged or destroyed 80 residences and killed Jennifer and Dion Longworth next door.

At one point, Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth paraded before the jury box a charred but relatively undamaged metal cylinder recovered from Shirley's garage which could be compared to another heavily compromised cannister found in the wreckage. Prosecutors  contend that damaged bottle was part of the triggering process and the inclusion of the simply charred cannister could prove to jurors that the fire and explosion didn't destroy every metal container recovered from the house in the same manner and that the destroyed bottle was likely filled with an explosive accelerant.

Prosecutors allege Leonard swapped out a thermostat in Shirley's house the week before in a failed attempt to destroy the home with an explosion and fire before the plot succeeded on November 10, 2012.

Liebig told jurors in St. Joseph Superior Court that many of the items she photographed, including kitchen appliances, fireplace debris and Leonard's casino customer cards, were discovered behind the Longworth home.

Throughout the presentation of hundreds of evidence photographs, Leonard's attorneys have remained relatively silent, save for the occasional objection or question about the uncertain origin of a piece of evidence recovered from a common dumpster located on Fieldfare Way in the weeks after the blast.

During earlier questioning Defense Counsel Diann Black explored the lack of security of potential evidence during the immediate aftermath of the explosion, but Liebig told jurors that the Richmond Hill site was the most secure crime scene she had ever worked.

Despite the hundreds of pieces of metallic and paper items, including intact boxes of matches, recovered from Shirley's house, it is striking in what investigators didn't find: furniture and television sets.

Prosecutors contend Leonard and Shirley conspired to remove personal items of value, including the family cat, from the home before the explosion.

The furniture has never been found.

Bob Leonard, Jr., Mark Leonard's half-brother, and Gary Thompson, a longtime friend, are accused of setting the elements of the explosion in motion that fall afternoon.

Glenn Hults is charged with aiding the conspiracy by agreeing to hide some of Shirley's personal items after the explosion.

Mark Inman, who is representing Bob Leonard, Jr., attended today's session.

Leonard is scheduled to go on trial in Fort Wayne next January.

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