Prosecutors to present final witness, rest case in second Richmond Hill house explosion trial
FT. WAYNE, Ind. (Feb. 17, 2016) — Prosecutors will present their final witness and then rest in the Richmond Hill case of Bob Leonard Jr.
Leonard is on trial in Fort Wayne, accused of plotting and triggering the south side Indianapolis explosion that killed two people in an insurance fraud scheme.
IMPD Homicide Detective Jeff Wager, the lead investigator, is scheduled to be the final state witness in the Allen Superior courtroom of Judge Frances Gull. Jurors have heard from dozens of witnesses about the plan to blow up the home of Monserrate Shirley in pursuit of a $300,000 home insurance payoff.
Mark Leonard, half-brother of the defendant, was convicted of more than fifty counts, including murder for the deaths of neighbors Jennifer and Dion Longworth.
He is serving a term of life without parole, a fate that awaits his half-sibling should the Fort Wayne jury reach the same conclusion as a South Bend panel last summer.
After three weeks of dissertations on the properties of natural gas, the painstaking investigation and witnesses who put Leonard both on the periphery and the center of the conspiracy, prosecutors sought to place the defendant at 8349 Fieldfare Way on November 10, 2012, in the hours before the blast.
Two former inmates who served short stints in county jails with Leonard said the accused co-conspirator either admitted his role in the plot or expressed remorse.
Jeremy Bullock was locked up in a cell in the Marion County Jail in 2014 and told jurors that Leonard not only described the layout of Shirley’s house but also drew him a diagram.
Bullock testified that Leonard told him that a bowl with a gold rim containing a metal fork was to be placed inside the microwave oven in Shirley’s kitchen with a time delay start to spark off the explosion at approximately eleven p.m.
During the Mark Leonard trial prosecutors theorized a metal water bottle was placed inside the oven to set off the explosion.
Tristen Wiegman was housed with Bob Leonard in the Allen County Jail last September when the Indianapolis man was brought to Fort Wayne for a preliminary hearing.
Wiegman told jurors he heard Leonard mutter to himself, “Nobody was supposed to get hurt,” “It was supposed to be easy,” and, “I’m not supposed to be here in jail.”
Marion County Forensic Services Agency DNA Analyst Tonya Fishburn testified that she identified Leonard’s DNA on the front door of Shirley’s home and in a white Ford van that was spotted in the neighborhood the day of the explosion.
Leonard admitted to CBS4 News that he had visited the home and ridden in Mark Leonard’s van prior to the blast.
A former Citizens Energy employee, Art Kirkpatrick, testified that he met the Leonard brothers at the Gaslight Inn on South Meridian Street on November 10, 2012, and they engaged him in a conversation that led to speculation about the explosive possibilities of natural gas.
Jurors watched a silent surveillance videotape of that meeting during which Kirkpatrick demonstrated with his hands that a house packed with leaking natural gas would fill like a balloon until “it popped.”
Allen Superior Judge Frances Gull will recess court Thursday as she travels to Indianapolis to interview for a seat on the Indiana Supreme Court.
Leonard’s attorneys expect to put three witnesses on the stand Friday in their client’s defense.
Tentatively closing arguments are set for Tuesday with deliberations to begin immediately.
Two other men, Gary Thompson and Glenn Hults, face trial for their alleged roles in the conspiracy. Shirley awaits sentencing on two arson counts as a result of her decision to cooperate with prosecutors.