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"I asked myself, 'Am I dead?'" – Richmond Hill survivor Gloria Olvey shares story for 1st time

Posted at 5:36 PM, Nov 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-10 23:52:52-05

What do you do when everything is gone?

Four years after the explosion that destroyed her home – trapping her family inside – Gloria Olvey is speaking publicly for the first time.

Olvey is still rediscovering items recovered from her home four years ago. Much of what was recovered was salvaged by police and placed into evidence bags – things like coins and key chains Olvey collected.

"I need to keep it because it's what's left, and I think about things that are gone," she said.

Above: Gloria Olvey shows Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez some of the items recovered from her home.

Olvey and her family lived just next door to the home on Fieldfare Way in the Richmond Hill subdivision that exploded on Nov. 10, 2012. That house, owned by her neighbor, Monserrate Shirley, was intentionally filled with natural gas and then ignited as part of an insurance fraud scheme.

When the natural gas ignited, it exploded with the force of more than 3 tons of TNT. The blast killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth, who lived on the other side of Shirley from the Olveys and damaged or destroyed around 100 homes. In all, the explosion did an estimated $4 million in damage.

Above: Damage to the Olvey home caused by the 2012 explosion.

Olvey remembers the night vividly. She and her family were sitting around at home after canceling a camping trip. At 11 p.m., when the explosion happened, Olvey was sitting in her recliner, about to go to bed.

"Just as I turned something hit me on the side of the face. Just boom," Olvey said. "I thought someone came up with a baseball bat and hit me."

"I was like, OK, I'm not dreaming," Olvey said. "Am I dead? I asked myself, 'Am I dead?' I yelled out, 'What happened?'"

Olvey's oldest daughter escaped the house through the blown-out dining room windows. But Olvey, her husband, and their youngest daughter were trapped inside under portions of the collapsed ceiling.

"I screamed out for help one time. One loud, blood-curdling scream."

"I screamed out for help one time," Olvey said. "One loud, blood-curdling scream."

Her neighbors heard the scream and rushed to her aid, pulling her out of the rubble of her home and into safety.

The Olveys were battered and bruised, but not broken. Weeks after the blast, they placed holiday decorations outside their property and asked investigators for one gift.

"I want an arrest," Olvey told them.

Police arrested the three principal suspects in the explosion just before Christmas Eve.

(Left to right): Suspects Monserrate Shirley, Mark Ray Leonard, and Bob Leonard Jr.

The Olveys eventually decided not to rebuild in the neighborhood. It was a tough decision, considering their connection to Richmond Hill.

"At any time, I can drive to any door and be welcomed in," Olvey said.

Above: The Phoenix tattoo on Gloria Olvey's leg.

To cover a scar on her leg left by stitches, Olvey chose a tattoo of a phoenix rising, with the letters "RH," for Richmond Hill.

The Olveys' lot itself is no longer empty. A neighbor bought the property and built a new home on the spot. The lots where Monserrate Shirley and the Longworths lived remain vacant.

A trial for the fifth and final suspect in the case, Glenn Hults, was scheduled to begin next week. However, one day before the fourth anniversary of the explosion, prosecutors announced they had reached a plea deal with Hults. He will agree to assisting a criminal, a class "D" felony, and faces six months to 3 years in prison.

The Richmond Hill Explosion case was the longest trial in Indiana history. The two men accused of being primarily behind the plot, brothers Mark and Bob Leonard, were given consecutive life sentences in separate six-week trials. Three other suspects, including Monserrate Shirley, who owned the home that exploded, reached plea deals with prosecutors and are scheduled to be sentenced in December 2016.

SPECIAL SECTION | Richmond Hill Explosion