FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Keep an open mind – that's all Bob Leonard's defense asked of jurors in their opening statements Thursday.
Attorney Ted Minch's opening remarks were light on specifics, save that, after all the evidence was in, he would prove his client had nothing to do with the 2012 Richmond Hill Explosion that killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth.
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Leonard is charged with 51 felony counts in connection with the blast, including arson and murder.
Minch told jurors the next six weeks would be emotional, but asked them not to be swayed from making an objective decision.
"There is no doubt of one thing in this case, and that is: You are going to hear and see things you never thought you'd hear and think about in your life," Minch said. "But your verdict can't be based on emotion."
Minch said jurors will see "destruction, damage and death."
"Describing it as a warzone probably doesn't do it justice," he said.
But they will also see evidence, he said, of the real culprits behind the explosion: Monserrate Shirley and his client's half-brother, Mark Ray Leonard.
"You're going to hear about Monserrate Shirley," Minch said. "You're going to her from her. You're going to hear about financial problems she had that were maybe part of the 'Why.'"
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He closed with a simple plea.
"As emotional and as difficult as this evidence will be to hear, we ask you to judge the evidence fairly and critically, and we ask you, after you've heard the evidence, to return a 'not guilty' verdict for Bob Leonard, because Bob Leonard was not responsible for the acts in this case," Minch said.
For her part, Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson mostly stuck to the same script that won the State a conviction against Mark Leonard in July. She told jurors the prosecution would be methodical in building its case "brick-by-brick."
"If you think about this case as a wall of bricks – going back to fire investigation, that's a brick in the wall," she said. "The witness testimonies you'll hear are bricks. The motive and corroboration is kind of the mortar in this case that holds the wall together."
Jurors were released Thursday afternoon with an admonishment not to talk with anyone about the case or to read, watch or listen to any news coverage. They were told to report back to court at 8:45 a.m. Friday.