Star witness Monserrate Shirley set to take the stand in second Richmond Hill trial
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Feb. 10, 2016) — The State’s star witness in the Richmond Hill case–the woman who was at the center of the murderous insurance fraud conspiracy–is set to testify Thursday against the man prosecutors claim set off the natural gas explosion that rocked the south side of Indianapolis in 2012.
Monserrate Shirley owned the home at 8349 Fieldfare Way that her boyfriend Mark Leonard decided to blow up in the pursuit of a $300,000 insurance payoff.
In front of a jury in Allen Superior Court, Shirley will testify that her ex-lover’s half- brother, Bob Leonard Jr., was in the thick of the plot, assisting in an earlier failed attempt before being assigned to light the spark in exchange for $10,000.
“That’s a bull**** lie,” Leonard said during a jailhouse telephone interview last month. “Monserrate Shirley never told me anything about money and discussed money with her or Mark Leonard either.”
Though Shirley’s account of Leonard’s alleged involvement was heard during the South Bend trial of his half-brother last summer, along with the testimony of other witnesses, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said the Fort Wayne jury will hear evidence that’s never been presented before.
“There are witnesses and evidence that will be listed in this trial that were not part of the Mark Leonard trial,” Curry said.
Shirley testified that Mark Leonard gave his half-brother $500 upfront in advance of a five figure payoff because “his brother will blow it, his brother will do anything and he was going to pay Bob Leonard to do it.”
“Really,” said Leonard during that January phone call from inside the Marion County Jail. “They never gave me anything.”
Prosecutors claim Leonard’s role was to set a timer on a microwave oven to spark a blast inside the house that was intentionally filled with natural gas.
“I was never part of the plan of the conspiracy. I was never part of their plan of conspiracy. I was never part of any of this. Monserrate Shirley blew up, burnt up, her daughter’s house intentionally,” said Leonard. “It was her debt. It was her 150, 125 dollars, whatever, buckled jeans and her Coach purses and her highfalutin and gambling going on, not mine.
“I don’t know the woman. Why would I risk anything to try to get her out of debt for a woman I have never met?”
In her plea agreement to two arson conspiracy charges, Shirley told investigators that after the explosion she expressed remorse regarding the deaths of neighbors Jennifer and Dion Longworth and Leonard said to her, “You are in it. You are done. You are in with us.”
“That’s a lie,” said Leonard. “That’s sounds like something a crazy person would say. I would never say anything like that to her at all.”
Shirley told jurors that the evening before the blast, Mark Leonard told her to give his half-brother $40 for “the part we need” and that the brothers “met somebody on the west side, a guy who works for the gas company, and he told them how to do it.”
“What would I need your $40?” asked Leonard during the phone interview. “What part? There was no part.”
Next week prosecutors will call Arthur Kirkpatrick, a Citizens Energy employee who spoke with the Leonard brothers at a South Meridian Street bar the day before the Nov. 10, 2012, tragedy, to testify about a conversation regarding the explosive properties of natural gas.
Shirley faces 20-50 years in prison for her admitted role in the conspiracy, though the sentence could be suspended following her cooperation with prosecutors.
“I think it’s fake,” said Leonard. “She’s going to plead guilty to both of them. She’s going to come back on post-conviction relief and she’s going to get the B felony is all she’s going to get.”
Leonard’s attorneys can be expected to refer to Shirley’s plea agreement in an attempt to question her credibility. Leonard said he wants to testify in his own defense.