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GUILTY: Bob Leonard convicted on all 51 counts

Posted at 1:15 PM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 17:40:22-05

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Bob Leonard Jr. is guilty of 51 felony counts -- including arson and murder -- in connection with the 2012 Richmond Hill Explosion, an Allen County jury ruled Wednesday.

The verdict comes after five weeks of testimony brought by prosecutors. By contrast, Leonard's defense team used just 30 minutes and called only two witnesses – instead making their case with their closing arguments.

Before reaching its verdict, the jury asked to look at several pieces of evidence, including DNA.

When the verdict was read, the judge admonished the courtroom not to react and Leonard looked down at the floor.

BIGGEST MOMENTS FROM THE TRIAL | Jailhouse informants take the stand | Bob Leonard's son testifies against father | Monserrate Shirley says she feared for her life | White van tracked to Bob Leonard | The odd boardings of Snowball the Cat | WATCH: Is this how Richmond Hill blast ignited?

Leonard was charged with 51 felony counts for his alleged role in the deadly explosion that killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth in 2012. Leonard's half-brother and alleged co-conspirator, Mark Ray Leonard, was convicted in July and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, plus 75 years, in prison.

"There's nothing for us to be happy about," John Longworth, Dion's father, said outside of the courtroom. "You adapt to pain and you learn how to handle it. It's easier now to think of Dion and Jennifer."

A third defendant, Mark Leonard's ex-girlfriend Monserrate Shirley, pleaded guilty in January 2015 and faces 20-50 years in prison. Two other defendants await trial in Marion County.

John Longworth said he thinks there is still somebody involved in the explosion who hasn't been charged -- but that it's a concern for law enforcement.

"I’m not going to spend the rest of my life worrying about it," he said. "It’s already been too much -- too painful."

Two brothers, two different trials

Mark Ray Leonard and his half-brother Bob Leonard, Jr., faced 51 out of 53 charges in common. They faced off against the same prosecutors and largely the same evidence. But in many ways, the key questions of the case were very different.

Mark Leonard's attorneys admitted right off the bat their client was trying to commit insurance fraud. But, they said, he only intended to start a "small fire." Bob Leonard's defense team made no such admission.

"As emotional and as difficult as this evidence will be to hear, we ask you to judge the evidence fairly and critically, and we ask you, after you've heard the evidence, to return a 'not guilty' verdict for Bob Leonard, because Bob Leonard was not responsible for the acts in this case," defense attorney Ted Minch said in his opening statements.

His closing statements – which comprised the bulk of his client's defense – echoed those sentiments: "Ladies and gentlemen, the State has not met its burden in proving the guilty of Bob Leonard beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore you must acquit."

MORE | Richmond Hill Trial: Closing arguments

Prosecutors in Mark Leonard's trial, freed from the need to prove arson or insurance fraud, focused heavily on how big the brothers thought the blast would be – and whether they should have known someone could get hurt.

Against Bob Leonard – who neither lived at 8349 Fieldfare Way nor had an obvious financial interest in the crime – prosecutors first had to prove he was even involved before getting into specifics.

Monserrate Shirley made her second appearance on a witness stand to do just that, telling jurors her ex-boyfriend Mark roped his brother Bob into the scheme to burn down her house after the first failed attempt. Shirley testified that Mark said Bob "would do anything" for him.

MORE | Richmond Hill: Monserrate Shirley says she feared for her life

Another repeat witness, Justin Leonard, was perhaps more impactful for jurors. He testified about his strained relationship with his father, and his suspicions when he was asked to take items allegedly recovered after the blast.

MORE | Family, friends point to Leonard brothers | Richmond Hill: Bob Leonard's son takes the stand

"He said there was an explosion," Justin Leonard said. "Mark and his girlfriend were living in a motel. He asked me to take some things. Just until they got back on their feet, is what I was told."

Prosecutors also called two jailhouse informants who claimed Bob Leonard talked about the case in jail. One of them, Jeremy Bullock, said Leonard went so far as to draw him a map of Monserrate Shirley's home.

MORE | Richmond Hill: Jailhouse informants take stand

"I remember he said there was a fire station less than a mile away," Bullock said. "He said he had to make sure the house was totally consumed so they couldn't tell what was inside so they could collect the insurance money."

What's next for Bob Leonard?

Despite protestations by Leonard's defense that the State failed to show evidence of what their client "actually did" to cause the explosion, Judge Frances Gull ruled against their motion to dismiss the possibility of life without parole.

Robinson argued that Dion Longworth's death was tortuous, as evidenced by a recorded phone call of him trapped in his basement.

"He knew he was trapped," Robinson said. "He knew what was coming."

In light of Monserrate Shirley's possible sentencing range, defense attorney Mark Inman said the State requesting life without parole for Bob Leonard is "almost appalling."

"For Monserrate Shirley to get 20-50 years with the possibility of parole, when the State has asked for life without parole for Bob Leonard, I think is almost appalling," Inman said.

Gull's ruling on the possibility of life without parole did not constitute a sentence. She set an actual sentencing hearing for March 18 at 1 p.m.


RELATED LINKS | Richmond Hill Special Section |  Mark Ray Leonard convicted on all counts

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