Indiana Blast Suspect Charged in Plot to Kill Witness

Prosecutor said suspect was plotting to have a witness in the case killed

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An Indianapolis man facing trial in a house explosion that killed two people and damaged or destroyed dozens of homes was charged Thursday with plotting to have a witness in the case killed.

    Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced Mark Leonard had been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder during a news conference in downtown Indianapolis.

    Curry said Leonard tried to arrange to have the witness killed for a payment of $15,000. Curry said Leonard also offered a $5,000 bonus if the killing was made to look like a suicide and if the killer could force the witness to first call 911 and recant statements about the explosion.

    Leonard, girlfriend Monserrate Shirley and brother Bob Leonard are awaiting trial in the Nov. 10 blast that killed a teacher and her husband, and left 33 homes in the Richmond Hill subdivision so damaged that they had to be demolished.

    Investigators say the trio intentionally created a gas explosion in Shirley's home in hopes of collecting insurance money. A microwave set to start on a timer sparked the explosion in Shirley's gas-filled home after a gas fireplace valve and a gas line regulator in the house were removed.

    John and Jennifer Longworth died after the explosion ignited another explosion and resulting fire at their house.

    All three defendants face murder, arson and conspiracy charges. Shirley also is charged with insurance fraud.

    Curry said in February he would seek life without parole for Shirley and the Leonards because a jury was unlikely to choose the death penalty.