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LIVE BLOG: Richmond Hill Trial Day 12

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Posted at 1:20 PM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 18:28:47-05

Richmond Hill Trial of Bob Leonard, Jr. -- Day 12

9:00 a.m. – Donald Engle, State Farm Insurance agent, called as a witness by the prosecution.

Engle says Monserrate Shirley has been a client of his since 1998.

Engle says Shirley had homeowner's insurance with his company, as well as insurance for multiple automobiles and a motorcycle. She also had content coverage for her house at 75% of the home policy value – the minimum amount allowed.

Engle says he received a text while in church to contact State Farm: "They told me I had an insured who had a bad loss, probably a total, and that I needed to contact them."

Engle says he had a meeting with Shirley and Mark Leonard on the Monday following the explosion. During that meeting he wrote a check for $5,000 to her to provide for living expenses until her claim was processed.

Engle says John Shirley was still an additional insured on the policy at the time of the explosion. Mark Leonard was not on the policy. Engle: "If there was any coverage it would have only been as a guest."

10:14 a.m. – Amber Horine, State Farm Insurance special investigator, called as witness by the prosecution.

Horine says a Cadillac and Harley Davidson motorcycle were in Monserrate Shirley's garage at the time of the explosion.

The Cadillac was titled and registered to Mark Leonard at the time of the explosion. That was changed to Monserrate Shirley about two weeks later. The motorcycle was titled and registered to Monserrate Shirley.

Horine: "The suspicious loss indicators were: We knew about financial hardships in the household. We also had someone living in the household we didn't know about. There were owners of the vehicles that we didn't know about. And everyone being out of the house at the time of the explosion."

State Farm paid for a rental car on Monserrate Shirley's behalf.

Mark Leonard said he bought the Cadillac at an insurance auction with cash and repaired it himself. He described the interior as in "excellent" condition, and the car overall as "in great shape."

Horine: "Mark Leonard told me their finances were good. He told me he got Monserrate Shirley 'out of the hole.' That's almost an exact quote."

Horine: "They both said they shared their finances basically as a married couple."

Mark Leonard told State Farm agents he bought the Harley for $18,000 cash.

11:04 a.m. – Ken Bailey, State Farm Insurance special investigator, called as witness by the prosecution.

Bailey: "I was in Miami after Hurricane Andrew. The damage I saw there was similar to what I saw on this scene."

Bailey says he began looking into reports of a white van seen the day of the explosion: "I had heard that some folks in the neighborhood had seen a white van in the neighborhood on the day of the explosion."

Bailey interview Monserrate Shirley on Nov. 14, 2012. She told him they'd gone to the casino three weekends in a row. She also said her daughter Brook was at a friend's house on the night of the explosion.

Bailey: "I had heard that the cat was boarded when the explosion happened. I found that a little odd. She told me that was her regular practice, to board the cat when she went out of town."

Shirley told Bailey the cat, Snowball, had anxiety issues and need to be boarded. John Shirley said Snowball didn't have anxiety issues, though, and had never been boarded while they were married.

Bailey: "Monserrate Shirley seemed to be upset [during interview]. I didn't notice this, but I had a coworker who told me when she seemed to be crying there weren't any tears."

Bailey said Shirley denied any knowledge of how the explosion occurred.

Monserrate Shirley told Bailey she had a Picasso painting in her home, which was one reason she needed increased insurance coverage.

Bailey: "Ms. Shirley told me that Mark's business vehicle was that white van. Mark said he left the white van in the parking lot at the Rockhouse Bar on Friday when they left for the casino, and picked it up on Sunday."

Bailey: "I learned that the van had been seen on Rybolt Avenue, which is where I learned Mr. Leonard's brother lived. Several coworkers and I then went and canvassed the area. We learned the van had been seen in the area in the weeks leading up to the explosion."

Bailey identifies Bob Leonard for the record – the first witness to do so in the trial.

Bailey: "I asked Bob about the white van. He said he had it that weekend."

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth: "Did the subject of a thermostat come up?" Bailey: "He said he'd gone with Mark Leonard to buy a new thermostat."

Bailey: "We had that conversation. Immediately after, he asked me, 'What did Mark tell you?' I told him I had more questions, and he told me he wanted to speak to an attorney.'"

Defense attorney Mark Inman: "Moncie told you some other things. She told you she and Mark Leonard were in a business where they'd buy and sell cars over the summer. And they di that out of their house." Bailey: "I believe that's correct."

Inman: "She also told you Mark was working as a contractor at a hotel. That they were going to make $100,000 off that." Bailey: "Yes."

Inman: "Monserrate Shirley told you Mark knew a lot of people. That he had a lot of friends who were going to help him with that. Did you ever inquire as to who those people were?" Bailey: "No."

12:15 p.m. – Court recesses for lunch.

1:15 p.m. – Edward Nightingale, Herndon and Associates mechanical inspector, called as a witness by the prosecution.

Nightingale says his company was contracted to inspect a Cadillac and Harley Davidson motorcycle in connection with the explosion.

Robinson enters into evidence photographs of the Cadillac and the Harley Davidson from after the explosion.

Robinson asks what can be done to determine a car's condition prior to an explosion. Nightingale: "For one thing, I'm not looking at the body components to tell me much of anything. I'm looking at parts that would take impact damage, or would be out of the ordinary from what I see there."

Nightingale: "With some of the explosion damage, you should be able to tell signs that's what caused that. On certain components, unless the explosion was actually inside the car, you should be able to tell that."

Nightingale: "One thing I noticed: On the interior of the vehicle I found the headlamp assembly and the instrument panel. Very low damage to the lens. The back of it was in perfect condition. It was unplugged. And I found it on the inside of the car. You can see on the front where the headlamp area was totally consumed. I could see where it was unplugged. Also, there wasn't that much fire damage to it, so it wasn't even inside that car at the time of the fire."

Nightingale: "The right front wheel I could see gouging to the wheel itself, meaning it was run on the rim."

Nightingale says an explosion wouldn't have caused the damage to the wheel, or the bending of the engine cradle he found: "I know this car had impact damage prior to the explosion and it wouldn't be operable. You couldn't drive it down the road, in other words."

Nightingale says the car's trunk lid was partially disconnected at the time of the fire. The lock was in perfect condition.

Nightingale: "It was my opinion that this car was in an impact to the right front side that snapped the tire rod, bent the lower control arm and bent the engine cradle. It's also my opinion, based on the headlamp assembly being removed, that this car was in the process of being parted out."

Robinson: "So is it your opinion this car was in perfect condition prior to the explosion?" Nightingale: "This Cadillac was un-drivable prior to the explosion."

Nightingale says he found the front fender on the motorcycle was pushed in and the forks were bent. Nightingale: "That was just odd to me to see that on the bike."

Nightingale: "The other thing I noticed was the handlebar was not attached to the bike. It's nothing something that normally falls off during a fire. It's not something that normally blows off during an explosion. But it was separated. It wasn't connected to anything at that point."

Nightingale: "With the Harley Davidson, again, it looks like there was impact and the handlebar was previously removed."

Robinson: "Would you say that prior to the explosion the Harley Davidson was in perfect condition?" Nightingale: "No."

1:54 p.m. – Alan Strange, ATF forensic auditor, called as witness by the prosecution.

Strange says a forensic auditor "recreates the financial condition" of an investigation.

Strange explains his academic and professional background.

Strange: "I was asked to look at Mr. Leonard and Mrs. Shirley and report on their financial condition leading up to the incident."

Strange says he obtained records of John and Monserrate Shirley's bankruptcy filing as part of his investigation, as well as their divorce decree, mortgage records, and other financial documents.

Strange: "Both Ms. Shirley and Mr. Leonard were experiencing financial difficulties."

Strange says Shirley and Leonard had a joint Fifth-Third Bank checking account, and Leonard had a separate account for his business, but that funds were co-mingled between both accounts. Strange: "It was as if what was his was hers, and what was hers was his."

Robinson asks Strange about the (Chapter 13) bankruptcy being dismissed. Strange: "The trustee determined Ms. Shirley was not complying with the terms of the bankruptcy plan – essentially not making the payments."

Strange: "It's essentially as if the bankruptcy had never been filed. Creditors have free reign to try to collect any and all debts again."

Strange: "What I was looking for there basically was the ability to survive, to live. It appeared from the bank accounts that they were putting enough money in from each check just to survive. So essentially they were living paycheck to paycheck."

Strange: "Money never accumulated. As soon as the money came in, it was spent."

Defense attorney Mark Inman: "Mark Leonard told someone he got Monserrate Shirley 'out of the hole.' Your report doesn't seem to suggest that." Strange: "No. I see no indication of that."

3:05 p.m. – Det. Sgt. Jeff Wager recalled as witness by the prosecution.

Wager says he obtained cell records for Mark Leonard and Monserrate Shirley's phones. He also subpoenaed records of Mark and Bob Leonard buying a thermostat at Menards, including a video.

Wager: "While I was in the office typing up those subpoenas, I got a call that a retired police officer named Ed Duckworth wanted me to call him. So I did, and he indicated his son Mark Duckworth might have information related to the case."

Mark Duckworth told Wager he'd had cellphone contact with Mark Leonard related to the explosion.

Wager says he interviewed Mark Leonard's brother Joshua Leonard – also Bob's half-brother – on Nov. 15.

Wager says he found the white van sitting in front of the property Mark Leonard was hired to demolish at Thompson and East streets.

Wager says a woman named Gina Griffin came forward on Nov. 19 with information leading Wager to Bob Leonard and a woman named Jessica Goodwin. Wager then obtained warrants for Bob Leonard's cellphone records and residence.

Wager interviewed Bob Leonard's son Justin Leonard on Nov. 20.

Wager says he didn't investigate Bob Leonard's financial records because he wasn't part of the 8349 Fieldfare Way household and "didn't appear to stand to benefit from the conspiracy to commit insurance fraud."

Defense attorney Ted Minch: "One the 19th you obtained a limited arrest warrant for Dave Gill. And you also obtained a search warrant for his cellphone records. And on Nov. 20 you actually interviewed Dave Gill." Wager: "That's correct."

Minch: "Did you obtain cellphone records before Nov. 1 for any of these people?" Wager: "No I did not."

 

4:00 p.m. – Court adjourns for the day.

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Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez and Senior Digital Correspondent Jordan Fischer will be in Fort Wayne covering the trial every day. Download the RTV6 app to get the latest live blog posts as the proceedings unfold.

FOLLOW | Rafael Sanchez on Twitter | Jordan Fischer on Twitter

RELATED LINKS | Richmond Hill Special Section |  Mark Ray Leonard convicted on all counts

PREVIOUS | Timeline of events | Gallery: The Richmond Hill Explosion | Where were you at 11:11 PM?

INTERACTIVE MAP | Residents relive Richmond Hill explosion

 


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