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LIVE BLOG: Richmond Hill Trial Day 7

Posted at 1:36 PM, Feb 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-02 18:18:24-05

Richmond Hill Explosion Trial of Bob Leonard, Day 7

9:10 a.m. – Jurors enter courtroom.

9:14 a.m. – Mike Sullivan, director of energy distribution engineering for Citizens Energy Group

  • Sullivan says after the explosion he was asked to calculate possible scenarios for how excess gas could have entered the home: "We were just looking for: If you had 12,800 cubic feet of extra gas, how do you get it into the building? We know it passed through the meter. Where did it go?"
  • Sullivan says he calculated the log lighter in the fireplace could have transmitted 83-93 cubic feet of gas an hour into the house at 2 pounds of pressure.
  • Defense attorney Mark Inman asks Sullivan about calculations: "It's entirely feasible that start point (for gas entering the home) could have been 2 p.m. the day of the explosion? This gas could have flown in in 9 hours?" Sullivan says yes.
  • Inman asks if any of the timing scenarios in Sullivan's report have "anything to do with" natural gas' 5-15% flammability range. Sullivan: "Depending upon the location of the source of ignition, you could reach that range in any number of timeframes."

10:40 a.m. – IFD Lt. Mario Garza re-called as witness.

  • Garza says his first theories about the explosion included an airplane crash, meth lab, bomb or even a lightning strike. He says IMPD's bomb squad ruled out the bomb hypothesis.
  • Garza says the investigation quickly honed in on the home's microwave: "It appeared something was in the microwave and exploded outward."
  • Garza says other appliances had fire damage or were crushed; microwave was "the only item we found that appeared to have exploded from the inside out."
  • Jurors see picture of BLEVE'd cylinder found near microwave at home. I
  • Garza: "There was something in that bottle that made it rip open.

11:28 a.m. – Dirk Shaw, Marion County CrimeLab forensic scientist

  • Shaw explains CrimeLab's evidence procedures and the gas chromatography technique he used to look for ignitable liquids.
  • Shaw says no traces of ignitable liquids were found.
  • On the cylinder: Shaw says pressure inside the bottle built up, causing it to distend and stretch thin in one area: "Something inside this bottle caused enough pressure to make it explode."

12:03 p.m. – James Novak, fire investigator for St. Paul, Minnesota, and owner of Novak Investigations

  • Novak says as a fire investigator he has burned 130-140 homes and blown up "about 10 houses" for training purposes.
  • Novak says he was not involved in the Richmond Hill investigation. He was contacted by someone from the Indianapolis news media about the explosion due to his expertise.
  • Novak says he was intrigued by the theory of the metal cylinder in a microwave serving as the ignition source of the explosion, and wanted to try it out: "I thought it was possible. I called all my engineer friends and asked them what would happen if you put a metal cylinder in a microwave. They said nothing would happen."
  • Novak says he then decided to test the theory himself. He says nothing happened at first, so he decided to microwave the cylinder for a longer period of time: "Within about 15 minutes of starting it up again, the door blew open, the pressure release value went and we had a ball of fire shoot out of the microwave."
  • Novak said once he learned the type of microwave and cylinder thought to have been used in Richmond Hill, he replicated his explosion using those brands. They also caused an explosion.
  • Novak: "The flame that came out of the door would have ignited any natural gas in the room."
  • Novak: "One of the things I surmised was, if you have natural gas in the room that fan will actually pull that gas into the microwave."

12:25 p.m. – Court recesses for lunch.

1:56 p.m. – Lt. Mario Garza re-called as witness

  • Garza: "As we followed the gas line to the fireplace, I expected to find a shut-off valve. I was looking for that valve and couldn't find it. The grate for the fireplace was there. The line going into the fireplace was there. The poker was there. Everything associated with the fireplace was there, except for the shut-off valve."
  • Garza says he had firefighters searching on rooftops for the valve and had the sewers scoped looking for it. He says the wooden stud supporting the fireplace shut-off valve was found intact.

2:22 p.m. – John Shirley, Monserrate Shirley's ex-husband, called as witness.

  • Shirley says he and Monserrate married on July 17, 1993.
  • They moved into a home they built in Richmond Hill toward the end of 2003.
  • Shirley: "She wanted us to live in a bigger house. Her sister had lived in the same housing complex. She found a house with a floorplan she liked." Shirley says Monserrate's sister moved out of the neighborhood around the same time they moved in.
  • Shirley says he was working at Eli Lilly at the time, and Monserrate was working as an RN at the VA hospital.
  • The two divorced on July 25, 2011. Shirley says Monserrate got the house in the divorce.
  • Shirley: "I moved out in February of 2011. Shortly thereafter I moved some furniture into the apartment. And then there was the arrangement that when I picked up my daughter I would get to take some of my belongings. But she put an end to that in August 2011."
  • Shirley says the house had three gas appliances when he lived there: furnace, water heater and fireplace. He says the log lighter worked fine when he lived there.
  • At the time of the explosion, Shirley says he was living in Noblesville. He was working in Fishers on the night of the explosion.
  • Shirley: "In order to pay a very large amount of child support, I was working a full-time job and two part-time jobs. I was at one of my part-time jobs when I got a text from my daughter, which was very unusual. Not until the following morning, when I went from this job to another job, did I get a text from a friend who thought it might be my house. I went into the breakroom and texted my ex about what happened. She was crying and hysterical and said the house blew up."
  • Shirley says he was worried Brook's cat Snowball was in the house and might have been killed. He says he and Monserrate never boarded the cat when they were married. He says he "was very surprised" to learn Snowball had been boarded on the night of the explosion.
  • Prosecutors ask if Shirley was asked by police to identify personal property following the explosion. They enter into evidence two golf bags with clubs and a driver. Shirley says they were his.
  • Defense attorney Ted Minch on cross-examination: "You're not happy to be here today." Shirley: "No. It's been hard for me and my daughter."
  • Minch: "You've had problems over the years with the furnace and the water heater. At one point you replaced the thermostat." Shirley says he replaced the thermostat "so there were more options to heat the house during the day."
  • Minch: "Before that, you did have some problems with the pilot light on the furnace?" Shirley: "Yes. And the water heater." He says sometimes strong winds would blow out the pilot light when someone opened the garage door. But no other problems.
  • Minch: "You testified about some things you lost in the explosion. And your daughter lost some things?" Shirley: "She lost everything. Except her cat, the clothes on her back and a teddy bear she got when she was 1."
  • Minch: "You said you talked to Ms. Shirley on the 11th. And you said she was crying? Did you see her on TV a few days later? Would you describe her demeanor the same way?" Shirley: "Yes."
  • Minch: "At no time did she ever say she was involved in the explosion?" Shirley: "No."
  • Shirley says he was paying Monserrate $1,000 a month in child support and mortgage payments.
  • Shirley: "Back in August (2011) she just stopped taking my phone calls and letting me talk to Brook. I got upset with her and sent her some derogatory texts. She was able to take that to the prosecutor and get a protective order against me."
  • Minch: "You testified that you only used a babysitter maybe once a month, because your lifestyle with Ms. Shirley wasn't such that you went out every weekend?" Shirley: "No."

3:35 p.m. – Court recesses for a break.

3:58 p.m. – Gary Worland, Citizens Energy manager of field operations in Westfield

  • Worland says in 2012 he was the manager of customer field services in Indianapolis.
  • Worland says he owned a business for more than 10 years installing gas appliances. He says he supplied two Dante valves for investigators to use as examples of what to look for after the explosion.
  • Worland says no valve was ever found, to his knowledge, or ever brought to him to identify.

4:12 p.m. – Eric Jensen, ATF special agent

  • Jensen says he was asked along with other law enforcement officers to look for a gas valve after the explosion, but that no valve was found.

4:19 p.m. – Joseph Baumann, Indianapolis Fire Department

  • Baumann says he was stationed as a firefighter at the station nearest Richmond Hill on the night of the explosion.
  • After the blast, he and others assisted in the search for the missing gas valve, which was never found.

4:28 p.m. – Court adjourns for the day.


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.

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

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