State challenges Richmond Hill suspect's appeal

Posted at 10:49 PM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-25 22:49:54-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Attorney General's Office filed a challenge against convicted Richmond Hill Explosion mastermind Mark Ray Leonard on Tuesday.

Leonard was sentenced to two life sentences in 2015 for his involvement in the fatal 2012 explosion.

The state’s 65-page argument lays out why the jury decision determined in South Bend should not be overturned.

Leonard is hoping to get his case thrown out. Among his main arguments: That his statements to an undercover officer about his alleged murder-for-hire plot against potential witness should have not been heard at his trial, because his attorney was present.  

The so-called mastermind of the plot is also arguing whether there was sufficient evidence to support a knowing murder charge in the deaths of Dion and Jennifer Longworth. He also questions the court’s sentencing him to two terms of life imprisonment with no parole.

The filing points out that Leonard’s statements to the undercover agent were “harmless,” that the state presented “sufficient evidence to sustain defendant’s knowing murder convictions," and that the “trial court properly sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without parole.” 

The state also presents arguments that Leonard’s actions led to the burning of John Longworth while he was alive.

Longworth and his wife Jennifer lived next door to the home that exploded on November 10, 2012

Leonard was the first of the explosion suspects to go on trial. His brother Bob was sentenced to two life sentences without parole in February by a jury in Fort Wayne. 

Both trials were moved out of Marion County because of pre-trial publicity.

The third suspect, Monserrate Shirley, cut a deal with the Marion County Prosecutor to avoid life in prison without parole. She testified against her then-boyfriend Mark and his brother and implicated their involvement in the explosion.

The root of the plot was allegedly to set her home at 8349 Fieldway Fare Way on fire to collect on an insurance policy worth $300,000.

A fourth suspect, Gary Thompson, is set to go on trial in September. The fifth, Glenn Hultz, is not in custody and is awaiting a trial date.