Bob Leonard Jr. blasts co-defendant’s Richmond Hill plea deal
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Bob Leonard, Jr., who is serving life without parole for his role in the fatal Richmond Hill explosion, blasted the plea agreement prosecutors reached with his alleged co-conspirator Gary Thompson.
“Gary Thompson was in on this whole thing from start to finish,” said Leonard in a Tuesday night phone call to CBS4 from inside the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility where he’s serving time for the murders of two people and the destruction or damage of 80 homes on Indianapolis’ south side in the fall of 2012. “He was there all the way to the last week.”
He was convicted earlier this year for the deaths of neighbors Jennifer and Dion Longworth in the insurance fraud blast.
Thompson could walk out of prison in as little as eight-and-a-half years while Leonard, pending the outcome of his expected appeal, will never be free.
Prosecutors argued he was alongside Mark Leonard as the men plotted to blow up the house of his half-brother’s girlfriend Monserrate Shirley.
There was speculation, though not definitively proven, that Bob Leonard drove his brother’s white van to the Shirley home the day of the blast and set the timer on a microwave oven that triggered the natural gas explosion and that he did so in the company of a second unidentified man.
“Shirley or Mark turned on the gas Friday,” said Leonard, arguing that he was not at the Fieldfare Way address the day before the explosion. “There was no reason to go over on Saturday.”
Leonard claims a thermostat installed by Thompson set off the blast in the house filled with intentionally leaked natural gas late Saturday night, November 10.
“I’m guilty by association,” said Leonard because prosecutors confirmed he was driving his brother’s van that weekend and his cell phone was in the greater southeast area the night before the explosion when the house may have been prepped for the blast.
Investigators have said the exact cause of the explosion, the identities of the men in the van and the whereabouts of Shirley’s household possessions and other evidence not found in the debris may never be known.
Thompson was charged with two murder and 47 arson counts, virtually the same charges his accused co-conspirators faced.
He will plead guilty Friday morning to one conspiracy to commit arson charge and someday presumably receive a 30-year sentence with ten years suspended plus two years probation.
“He will admit to a factual basis of the charge,” said Defense Attorney Heather Barton.
Such a statement may not necessarily result in a full accounting of Thompson’s admitted role.
Shirley pleaded guilty to similar charges in early 2015 and proceeded to give statements to investigators and testify in the trials of both Leonard brothers.
Thompson gave four statements to investigators during the course of the probe before he was charged a year-and-a-half ago, yet by pleading guilty and avoiding trial, he and prosecutors may succeed in keeping the contents of those statements secret.
The Plea Agreement carries no requirement that Thompson testify against the remaining accused conspirator, Glenn Hults, who faces trial in the fall, and his statements now would have no bearing on the cases against the Leonard brothers or Shirley.
Hults’ attorneys, Ralph Staples and Jeff Mendes, said their client steadfastly denies taking part in the conspiracy or agreeing to look after Shirley’s daughter during two previous failed attempts and the weekend of the explosion.
Thompson, like Shirley, is expected to be formerly sentenced later this year.
Shirley faces a presumptive sentence of 30 years, squarely in the range of the zero to 50 year term that her conviction calls for, though Marion Superior Judge Shelia Carlisle is free to find mitigating factors, such as the defendant’s role as a mother and her cooperation with investigators, or aggravating factors, including Shirley’s involvement from the earliest days of the plot, her failure to warn authorities and her anticipated financial windfall from an insurance settlement payoff.
By confirming his role in the conspiracy, Thompson is essentially admitting that he could have gone to police and turned in his fellow co-conspirators before the blast but failed to do so.
He has been jailed since early last year.
During his phone call from prison, Bob Leonard claimed that he was muzzled by his attorneys from testifying on his own behalf during his trial last winter and he accused prosecutors of withholding evidence that he believed would have proven his innocence.
Lead Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson promised that should Thompson have come to trial, the State would introduce evidence specific to his case that had never before been revealed, not to mention the potential introduction of his statements into the record.