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Neighbor: Bob Leonard not man I saw day of blast

Posted at 3:44 PM, Jan 27, 2016

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Tony Burnett saw two men outside Monserrate Shirley's home the day it exploded -- but he's "100 percent sure" they weren't Bob Leonard.

Burnett testified Wednesday at Leonard's trial in Fort Wayne. Leonard faces 51 felony counts, including arson and murder, for his alleged role in the 2012 Richmond Hill Explosion.

Burnett, who lived at 8348 Fieldfare Way – right across the street from Monserrate Shirley – said he said two men pull up to her home in a white van on Nov. 10, 2012.

"It was a bit strange, because I thought they were gone for the weekend," Burnett said.

After Bob Leonard was arrested, Burnett said he looked online to find pictures of who he saw that day. But after attending Leonard's arraignment, he said, he realized he wasn't one of them.

"I'm 100% sure neither one was Bob Leonard," Burnett said. "His hair's different. His build's different. He has pasty white skin. The guys I saw were kind of tan. There was no match at all."

Prosecutors have accused Leonard of setting the explosion in motion. Burnett's testimony would seem to be an early boon to the defense, who claimed in their opening statements that Leonard had no involvement in the deadly blast.

Find a transcript of Tony Burnett's full testimony from Wednesday below:

1:26 p.m. – Tony Burnett, 8348 Fieldfare Way, called as witness by prosecution.

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth: "Did you know who Monserrate Shirley was?"

Burnett: "Yes."

Burnett says he knew John Shirley before the couple's divorce, and that he had met Mark Leonard, but didn't know his name until after the explosion.

1:32 p.m. – Burnett: "There was this huge bang. The house was shaking. Things were falling down. It was such a loud bang it was almost deafening."

1:50 p.m. – Burnett: "I saw a van outside the Monserrate Shirley home and two people standing outside it. I thought it was a bit strange, because I thought they were gone for the weekend."

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth, asking about picture of white van earlier entered into evidence: "Do you recognize the van?"

Burnett: "Yes. That's the van."

Hollingsworth: "And did you associate that van with the Shirley residence?"

Burnett: "Yes. Pretty much the whole time Mark Leonard had been there."

1:57 p.m. – Hollingsworth asks Burnett again about the people he saw at the Shirley residence on Nov. 10, 2012.

Burnett: "I saw two people. Two white gentlemen. One was taller, probably 6'2" or 6'3". The other was shorter. Both had black hair."

Burnett said the taller one was on his cellphone. He noticed he had what appeared to be a tattoo below the cuff of his shirt.

Burnett: "He was knocking on the door like he was trying to get inside. But it was kind of strange, because he was off to the side, like he was trying to look in the window."

Burnett said the two men then rushed away from the house.

Burnett: "It was not just a casual leaving kind of thing. It was a very urgent, get in the van and get out kind of thing."

2:00 p.m. – Burnett says it looks like the men were trying to get away from the house unseen.

Burnett: "They hopped in and got out. I don't know if there was even enough time to fasten their seatbelts."

2:01 p.m. – Burnett: "We always wondered what was going on over there. They were always moving things in and out. Odd things. One time it looked like they had a bunch of tanning beds in there."

2:03 p.m. – Burnett: "We noticed their license plates bounced around a lot. They had three different license plates they used, and they'd be on all different vehicles."

2:04 p.m. – Burnett: "When I saw what I thought was Mark's van at the house, I thought it was kind of odd because I didn't think they were home."

2:05 p.m. – Burnett says after Bob Leonard was arrested, he did research on the Internet to try to find pictures of the two men he saw that day.

Burnett: "I found somebody I thought was a pretty good match for one of the guys I saw. A couple days later, I went to the arraignment and I realized Bob Leonard was not one of the two men I saw that day."

Burnett says he believes the person he saw was Justin Leonard, Bob Leonard's son.

Burnett: "He was wearing the same outfit and had the same haircut. At this point, I'm still 80% sure that was the person I saw."

2:08 p.m. – Burnett said he and his wife saw a bunch of furniture out on the front yard of the Shirley residence one day.

Burnett: "We made a note: Here's another weird thing going on across the street. But at that point, there were a lot of weird things going on."

2:10 p.m. – Defense attorney Ted Minch begins cross-examination.

Minch: "Before your deposition, had many times had you spoken with law enforcement?"

Burnett: "I would say 5-6 times."

Minch: "Did you talk to anybody after that?"

Burnett: "After I said I might know who one of the people was, there was an attempt, but it never followed through."

2:20 p.m. – Minch: "At some point you were made aware that Bob Leonard had been arrested in this case. Bob Leonard was charged in late December. At that time you told Mr. Hollingsworth about the research you'd done. You took it upon yourself to drive by Bob Leonard's house. And you saw a Mustang there."

Burnett: "I wanted to see what it looked like. I wanted to see how close it was to our neighborhood."

Burnett says once he saw Bob Leonard, he realized he wasn't one of the people he saw on Nov. 10, 2012.

Burnett: "His hair's different. His build's different. He has pasty white skin. The guys I saw were kind of tan. There was no match at all."

2:25 p.m. – Minch: "You were able to identify another person you thought was there. From the first day, your description of the hair has never changed. Even to today."

Burnett: "As far as I know it hasn't."

2:30 p.m. – Minch: "When you told investigators that you thought you'd seen Justin Leonard, do you know if there was any follow-up on that?"

Burnett: "At the time when I mentioned it he said Justin was no longer a suspect."

Minch: "So you left it at that."

2:33 p.m. – Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth begins redirect.

Hollingsworth: "You were looking for somebody who looked just like the person you saw, but you're aware people's appearances change?"

 Burnett: "Yes."

2:35 p.m. – Burnett dismissed.

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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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