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Three charged with murder over Indianapolis explosion

02 January 2013

Three people charged in a gas explosion that devastated part of the Indianapolis neighbourhood of Richmond Hill deliberately set up the deadly blast to collect a large insurance payout, authorities said on December 21.

The home's owner, Monserrate Shirley; her boyfriend, Mark Leonard; and his brother, Bob Leonard, were arrested and charged with murder, arson and other counts in the November 10 blast that killed two people.

Shirley was facing mounting financial woes, including $63,000 in credit card debt and a growing threat she might lose her home amid bankruptcy proceedings, court documents say. And a friend of Mark Leonard's told investigators Leonard said he had lost about $10,000 at a casino some three weeks before the explosion.

Investigators believe the trio had actually tried but failed to blow up Shirley's home the weekend before the successful timed explosion, according to Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. The blast destroyed five homes, including Shirley's, and caused widespread damage to dozens of others in the neighbourhood on the far south side of the city.

Shirley and the Leonard brothers face two counts of murder as well as 33 counts of arson — one count for each of the homes damaged so badly that officials have ordered their demolition.

Curry said his office would review whether to pursue the death penalty or life in prison without parole against the three.

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