FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- The magnitude of the Richmond Hill Explosion began to unfold for jurors this week as the trial of Bob Leonard, Jr., began in Allen County.
Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson told the 18 members of the jury the State would lay out its case against Leonard "brick-by-brick." The first bricks were the testimony of the first firefighters to arrive on scene the night of the explosion.
Jurors also heard recordings of dozens of often-frantic 911 calls that poured in to dispatched from around the city.
On Friday, the prosecution brought forth Richmond Hill residents one after the other. Each described an otherwise placid night violently interrupted by an explosion that shook their homes and blew out windows and doors:
Alaina Lennon, 8338 Andrusia Lane – “There was a little bit of a shake in the house. I thought at first we were having an earthquake. No sooner had I had that thought than I heard the most powerful explosion I’d ever heard. You can’t even describe it.”
Dean Weathers, 8345 Andrusia Lane -- “We just kind of stood there for a moment taking everything in. There was debris everywhere. I remember looking at the sky and I could see insulation floating. It was eerily quiet, except for the crackling of the fire. In the center there was a plume … like a jet of fire about 6’ tall. I remember thinking that was kind of odd.”
Matt Barre, 8333 Andrusia Lane – “The sliding patio door had blown open and it was just a hole in the house. My initial thought was that a drunk driver had hit the house.”
Cynthia Glynn, 8309 Alcona Drive – "I woke up to a picture falling on my head. My son ran downstairs absolutely hysterical wanting to know what was going on. [Glynn’s husband] Bob ran down to where we could see the fire. He ran back and said, ‘We’ve got to get out of here. This whole neighborhood is going to blow up.'"
For their part, the defense remained largely unheard-from – declining to cross-examine almost every witness so far.
Leonard's defense attorney Ted Minch asked the jury Thursday to keep an open mind as they heard emotional testimony throughout the trial, and to not make a decision based on their own emotions. Minch told jurors his client would be proved innocent by the end of the trial – but not how he planned to counter more than five weeks' worth of evidence from prosecutors.
Jurors were ordered Friday to return to court Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. Judge Frances Gull admonished them not to read, speak about or research anything related to the trial while outside of the courtroom.