INDIANAPOLIS – Three people charged in a gas explosion that devastated an Indianapolis neighborhood deliberately set up the deadly blast to collect a big insurance payout, authorities said Friday.
The home’s owner, Monserrate Shirley; her boyfriend, Mark Leonard; and his brother, Bob Leonard, were arrested Friday and charged with murder, arson and other counts in the Nov. 10 blast that killed two people.
Shirley, 47, was facing mounting financial woes, including $63,000 in credit card debt and worsening bankruptcy proceedings, court documents say. And a friend of Mark Leonard’s told investigators Leonard said he had “lost a ton of money” – 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 fiery blast destroyed five homes, including Shirley’s, and caused widespread damage to dozens of others in the Richmond Hill subdivision in the far south side of the city. Curry called the explosion a “thoroughly senseless act” that killed Shirley’s next-door neighbors.
He said investigators determined that Shirley’s home filled up with gas after a gas fireplace valve and a gas line regulator were removed. A microwave, apparently set to start on a timer, sparked the explosion, he said.