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Pyschologist says Monserrate Shirley was abused as child, has 'dependent personality disorder'

Posted at 11:41 AM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-20 11:41:35-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Monserrate Shirley's history of violent, abusive relationships dates back to her childhood being raised by an alcoholic father, according to a clinical psychologist called to testify at her sentencing hearing Tuesday.

Dr. Stephanie Callaway interviewed Shirley for 2 hours and 20 minutes on January 19, 2013, at the Marion County Jail. The interview took place a little more than two months after the Richmond Hill Explosion, and roughly one month after her arrest.

Based on that interview, Callaway said she diagnosed Shirley with depression and dependent personality disorder.

She also said she learned Shirley's father was physically and emotionally abusive toward Shirley, her siblings and their mother.

"In addition to seeing the violence, she also saw how her mother and father behaved," Callaway said. "Her dad was described as being something of a con artist. He could be click and smooth when he wanted something, and then turn violent when he didn't get it."

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Callaway said one of Shirley's sisters described their father's violence as "unbelievable."

"She also saw how her mother would try to please and placate her father in order to avoid the violence," Callaway said. "As she grew up, those were the things that carried forward and caused significant problems for her and her relationships."

Callaway said Shirley told her that her first two husbands were abusive. She said it appeared Shirley's relationship with Mark Ray Leonard – now serving a life sentence for his role in an insurance scheme to blow up her house that killed two people – was a continuation of that cycle.

"She said they met at a bar and fell in love very quickly," Callaway said. "It's that intense need to be loved, that intense need to make others happy."

Callaway said that even though Shirley's family warned her about Mark Leonard, even advising her to get a background check on him, she didn't see the red flags.

"She wouldn't see the red flags others would," Callaway said. "She was more taken in by the charm and the perception of him having money."

SPECIAL SECTION | Richmond Hill Explosion

If Shirley's defense hoped Callaway's testimony would paint a picture of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship, Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth wasn't having it. He led off his cross-examination of Callaway by asking her directly whether Shirley's diagnoses absolved her of responsibility for her part in the 2012 Richmond Hill Explosion.

"She has responsibility and there's no excuse for what happened," Callaway said. "What I hoped to do was provide a way to explain why she acted the way she did and some of the decisions she made."

Hollingsworth also challenged the assertion that Shirley was a woman stuck unwillingly in a bad relationship.

"She would in fact talk about her relationship with Mark Leonard, but it was all the glamorous stuff: the nice cars they had; the trips they would go on," Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth also pointed out that unlike many women in domestic violence situations who are financially dependent upon their abusers, Shirley was educated, had a well-paiyng job and her own home and vehicle.

Callaway said even women in that situation don't always leave their abusers.

"There are women who don't have these things, but she did, and she still stayed," Callaway said.

The defense was expected to call more witnesses before Judge Sheila Carlisle made a final decision on Shirley's sentencing Tuesday. She faces up to 50 years in prison for two counts of conspiracy to commit arson.

ALSO READ | Transcript: Monserrate Shirley's full testimony at the Richmond Hill Explosion Trial