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Indianapolis explosion now being investigated as homicide

23 November 2012

The house explosion that killed two people, destroyed five homes and damaged dozens more in an Indianapolis neighbourhood is now being investigated as a homicide, authorities said, though no suspects have been named. Indianapolis Homeland Security Director Gary Coons announced the criminal investigation on November 19.

A funeral was held for the husband and wife who had lived next door to the house where investigators believe the blast occurred.

"We are turning this into a criminal homicide investigation," Coons said after meeting with residents, the first public acknowledgement by investigators of a possible criminal element to the Nov. 10 explosion.

Search warrants have been executed and officials are now looking for a white van that was seen in the subdivision on the day of the blast, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said. Federal authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information in the case.

Curry said the investigation is aimed at "determining if there are individuals who may be responsible for this explosion and fire," but neither he nor Coons took questions or indicated if investigators had any suspects. No arrests have been made.

A lawyer representing Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard, who lived in that home that is believed to have exploded, said Tuesday that the couple was bewildered by the new direction of the investigation.

Randall Cable said in a statement that Shirley and Leonard have "cooperated fully" with investigators and that they want the cause "of this horrific and saddening tragedy to be determined."

Officials say they believe natural gas was involved in the explosion, which destroyed five homes and left dozens damaged. Investigators have focused on appliances in their search for a cause. The explosion caused an estimated $4.4 million in damage.

John Shirley, who co-owns the house with his ex-wife, Monserrate, told The Associated Press that he had recently received a text message from his 12-year-old daughter saying the furnace in the home had gone out.

Monserrate Shirley said Leonard had replaced the thermostat and that the furnace was working. Cable has said the daughter told her mother she had smelled an odd odour in recent weeks, but they hadn't reported it.

Shirley and Leonard were away at a casino at the time of the blast, Cable said. The daughter was staying with a friend, and the family's cat was being boarded.






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