On Saturday night November 10, 2012, at 11:10 p.m., a natural gas explosion occurred in the Richmond Hill subdivision of southeastern Indianapolis. Two people died; there were 7 non-fatal injuries. Eighty homes received damage, including five which were destroyed or later demolished. The damage was estimated at $3.6 million.

Aerial view of a neighborhood. Four houses are completely destroyed with nothing left but blackened debris. The houses surrounding the site are in various states of disarray and debris fills the yards.
Richmond Hill Explosion, 2012 Credit: Matt Kryger, IndyStar View Source

The explosion originated at and destroyed the home of Monserrate Shirley. The neighboring home, which was also destroyed, belonged to Dion and Jennifer Longworth, the two fatalities. Shirley and her boyfriend Mark Leonard were out of town for the weekend while her 12-year-old daughter stayed with friends. Shirley stated that her daughter had smelled gas during the week before the explosion.

An investigation conducted by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Indianapolis Fire Department had become a criminal inquiry by November 19. On December 21, 2012, Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard, and his brother Bob Leonard were charged with 2 counts of felony murder and conspiracy to commit arson along with other charges. 

The alleged motive for the arson was to collect insurance money to ease substantial debt. The insurance policy for $300,000 would have replaced Shirley’s house as well as personal items. Investigators found Shirley and her boyfriend had credit card debt of $63,000, were involved in bankruptcy proceedings, and had taken a second mortage on the home for $65,000 in addition to the original mortgage of $116,000. Furthermore, Leonard had lost $10,000 at a casino approximately three weeks before the explosion.

Having arranged a plea bargain, Monserrate Shirley was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Among other offenses, Mark Leonard was convicted of two counts of murder for which the court imposed consecutive life without parole sentences. Bob Leonard was convicted of two counts of knowing murder for which the court sentenced him to life without parole. Mark Leonard died of natural causes on January 30, 2018.

Revised June 2021

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