The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local News

November 20, 2012

Prosecutor: No arrests made in deadly Indy blast

INDIANAPOLIS — Investigators said Tuesday that no arrests have been made in connection with an Indianapolis house explosion that killed two people and destroyed at least five homes, but that authorities were still serving search warrants and questioning people.

Prosecutor Terry Curry said that search warrants had been executed and people were questioned, but he declined to discuss who was questioned or where the warrants had been served.

Curry spokeswoman Brienne Delaney said Tuesday evening that no arrests had been made.

“It’s still a fluid situation,” she said. It isn’t clear how many people have been questioned.

The investigation into the Nov. 10 explosion is believed to be focusing on a house occupied by Monserrate Shirley and her boyfriend, Mark Leonard. The couple and Shirley’s 12-year-old daughter were away at the time of the explosion, but the young couple next door died when their house was destroyed.

According to WISH-TV, news gathering partner to The Herald Bulletin, residents Whitney Essex and Brand Horton live in a mobile home community next door to a home that was raided by police Tuesday and two people reportedly were taken into custody for questioning.

Essex told WISH that their neighbor had talked to them about being questioned by detectives about the explosion.

“He was telling me about how they came over and asked me about the white van and if anybody came to my door to talk about the white van, that I never seen it,” she said.

Essex told WISH she saw a white van outside the man’s mobile home for several weeks.

“He told me that it was only there for one day and that they moved a TV with it and I obviously know different because it was at his house for two weeks,” Essex said.

Indianapolis Homeland Security Director Gary Coons said in a statement released Tuesday night that investigators were still at work at the blast-damaged neighborhood on Indianapolis’ south side.

“The investigation is still ongoing and we are still processing the scene. No arrests have been made at this time,” his statement said.

Attorney Randall Cable said earlier Tuesday that Shirley and Leonard had been cooperating with investigators and were “bewildered” by Curry’s announcement Monday that the investigation was considered a criminal homicide.

City arson investigators and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives concluded the blast was not an accident, Curry told the AP earlier Tuesday. The case is classified as a criminal homicide investigation because of the deaths of Jennifer and John Longworth.

Curry declined to discuss details of the investigation or the search warrants, which he said would remain sealed until — or if — any criminal charges are filed.

Officials have said they believe natural gas was involved in the explosion and that they are focusing on appliances as the cause. The explosion caused an estimated $4.4 million in damage.

Curry said investigators had considered homicide a possibility all along, but it wasn’t until police and the ATF ruled out an accidental cause that it became a criminal probe.

He declined to say whether investigators had any suspects or if there was any physical evidence or possible motive that the blast had been deliberately set.

“In terms of any intent, I can’t speak to that,” Curry said.

Cable said in a statement that Shirley and Leonard have “cooperated fully” with investigators and that they want the cause “of this horrific and saddening tragedy to be determined.”

Fire Capt. Rita Burris said Tuesday that about 15 heavily damaged homes are “on hold,” meaning that residents have limited access because of the investigation.

Once the on-scene work is complete, she said inspectors will have to determine if those homes are safe enough to enter or if they must be demolished.

“That’s a two-fold, two-layer thing that these homeowners are going to have to deal with,” Burris said.

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