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Richmond Hill: Bob Leonard's role in explosion

Posted at 9:10 PM, Jan 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 13:13:25-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jury selection begins Tuesday in the arson and murder trial of Robert Leonard, Jr. – one of five people accused in the 2012 southside explosion that killed two people.

PREVIOUS | Bob Leonard talks from jail ahead of Richmond Hill trial | Bob Leonard says he is in 'severe pain,' wants trial delayed | Bob Leonard asks to fire his defense team, represent himself

Leonard faces 51 counts, including arson and murder, in connection with his alleged role in the explosion. His half-brother, Mark Ray Leonard, was convicted in July of 53 counts and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without parole, plus 75 years.

The jury selection period is expected to take eight days, calling about 100 potential jurors.

As of about 11 a.m. on Tuesday, the actual selection process hasn't started, and 38 of the 50 called have shown up. The other 50 are expected to show up at 12:30.

RICHMOND HILL EXPLOSION SPECIAL SECTION

Mark Leonard's former girlfriend, Monserrate Shirley, pleaded guilty in the case and has agreed to testify against her co-defendants. Two other men, Glen Hultz and Gary Thompson, are facing lesser charges for their alleged role in the conspiracy.

Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez and Senior Digital Correspondent Jordan Fischer will be in Fort Wayne covering the trial jury selection through the final verdict. Follow them on Twitter for live updates throughout the trial

FOLLOWRafael Sanchez on Twitter | Jordan Fischer on Twitter

Prosecutors painted Mark Leonard as the mastermind of the explosion – the result of a plot to burn down Shirley's house to collect more than $300,000 in insurance money. But it was Bob Leonard, they said, who set the final, successful attempt to commit arson in motion.

MORE | Golf bag, DNA point to Mark and Bob Leonard, prosecution says | Citizens Energy employee says Leonards asked him about blowing up house with gas | Monserrate Shirley takes the stand

This is what prosecutors have alleged so far about Bob Leonard's involvement in the case:

  • On Nov. 1, 2012, Mark Leonard called his brother Bob to Monserrate Shirley's home on Fieldfare Way in the Richmond Hill subdivision. Mark was going to ask Bob to start a "small fire" at the house in exchange for a $10,000 payment from the insurance proceeds.
  • Bob Leonard was called in to set the fire in motion after Glen Hultz allegedly failed to do so the previous weekend.
  • Bob and Mark Leonard purchased a thermostat that would be set to "click" and start a fire in the home. The second attempt to burn the house down also failed.
  • On Nov. 8, Mark and Bob Leonard went to the library to research a house fire that was the same size as Shirley's house, according to her testimony.
  • On Nov. 9, Mark and Bob Leonard visited the Gaslight Inn, where they talked to a Citizens Energy employee about how much gas it would take to fill a house, and what would happen if the natural gas regulator was removed.
  • Prior to the explosion on Nov. 10, Bob and Mark Leonard removed boxes of items from the house, as well as golf clubs belonging to Shirley's ex-husband, and took them to the house where Bob Leonard's son was staying. At some point, gasoline was also poured around the living room of the Shirley home.
  • Sometime on Nov. 9, Mark and Bob Leonard buy a piece of straight pipe to replace the home's natural gas regulator with.
  • Between the night of Nov. 9, 2012, and the time of the explosion, Bob Leonard entered Monserrate Shirley's home and set a timer on a microwave with a metal cylinder inside. Prosecutors say the cylinder was filled with a flammable liquid which, when the microwave turned on, ignited and caused a chain reaction leading to the explosion.

Bob Leonard has maintained his innocence, saying he had "no involvement" in the explosion.

Leonard told Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez last week he isn't surprised investigators found his DNA at Shirley's home because he had visited his brother there the weekend prior to the explosion.

"When I went over there that Sunday before, when he said his furnace wasn't working, he had the windows open and the gas turned off," Leonard said.

Leonard's trial was moved to Fort Wayne due to heavy publicity about the case in Marion County.

If convicted, Leonard could face up to life without parole.

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