INDIANAPOLIS -- Monserrate Shirley wept with her head down as John Longworth spoke Monday about his son, Dion, who died when her home exploded in November 2012.
Longworth spoke at the first day of Shirley's sentencing hearing for that explosion, which killed Dion and his wife Jennifer and damaged more than 100 nearby homes. Judge Sheila Carlisle will determine Shirley's sentence for two counts of conspiracy to commit arson, which carry a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.
Longworth, who has testified previously at the trials of Shirley's co-conspirators Mark Ray Leonard and Bob Leonard Jr., said he still finds the insurance fraud scheme that led to his son's death hard to fathom.
"It's kind of weird to think that you're going about your life and someone has a target on your back," he said. "And they don't care. That's one thing I've never seen from any of these defendants: much caring."
SPECIAL SECTION | Richmond Hill Explosion
Longworth read partially from a prepared statement about his son and daughter-in-law. He was just one of the witnesses the state planned to call as part of the sentencing hearing.
Before Longworth spoke, IFD Private Richard Sherman testified about his unsuccessful efforts to free Dion Longworth from the burning rubble of his collapsed home. Longworth said sometimes he dreams he was there with him.
"From time to time I still dream that I'm there with Richard Sherman, trying to get him out," he said.
Longworth said he sees no remorse and no excuse for Shirley's actions. And, he said, she could have done something to stop the plot at any time.
"She protected her child and her cat, but she showed no concern for anyone else in the neighborhood," he said. "She traded the lives of our children for her own, if she was really afraid of [Mark Leonard]."
Because she reached a plea deal with prosecutors, Shirley avoided a trial and the possibility of life without parole. Her sentencing hearing is a sort of "mini-trial" in which neighbors and family members will have the opportunity to weigh in on what they think her sentence should be.
Longworth said that's a hard thing for him to decide on.
"I don't believe in vengeance, so I don't know what to say to do," he said. "Justice to me, at times, is that each one of them burn to death, because that's what happened to Dion."
The court recessed for a brief break following Longworth's testimony. Shirley was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, visibly wracked by sobs.
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