FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- John Shirley told jurors Tuesday that, while his relationship with his ex-wife Monserrate was severely damaged by the time he moved out, the gas appliances in their home were not.
Shirley testified in Fort Wayne at the trial of Bob Leonard, Jr. – one of five people accused in the deadly 2012 Richmond Hill Explosion.
Shirley said after he and his wife's divorce was finalized in July 2011, the last time he was at the home at 8349 Fieldfare Way was August of that year.
"I moved out in February of 2011," he said. "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."
But while he was living in the home, the only problem he had with its gas appliances – the furnace, water heater and fireplace – was that their pilot lights would sometimes go out when a draft blew in from an open garage door.
On the night of the explosion, Shirley said he was working a second job in Fishers.
"In order to pay a very large amount of child support, I was working a full-time job and two part-time jobs," he said. "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 told jurors he lost a number of things in the explosion, including a collection of tennis rackets and a drafting table. At least three of his possessions did survive, however: two golf bags, with clubs, and a driver he'd been gifted. Prosecutors entered all three into evidence Tuesday. Jurors will later hear that the golf bags and clubs were found at Bob Leonard's home after the explosion.
While Shirley said he lost a lot, he pointed out the toll was much greater on his then-13-year-old daughter Brook.
"She lost everything," he said. "Except her cat, the clothes on her back and a teddy bear she got when she was 1."
Below, find a transcript of John Shirley's testimony from Tuesday's hearing:
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."