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Richmond Hill Remembered: Five Years After the Explosion

Fox 59 crime reporter Russ McQuaid recalls the devastation and what started the investigation.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz contributed to this report.

INDIANAPOLIS--On Nov. 10, 2012, an explosion on th south side of Indianapolis destroyed more than 30 homes and caused more than $4 million worth of damage. The story of that explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood is still being told five years later. 

When it happened

"When folks first came out of their homes, they thought naturally, a plane has crashed," said Russ McQuaid, crime reporter for Fox 59, and co-author of the book 'Love and Greed in the Heartland', about the Richmond Hill explosion. 

"In Shelby County, they heard the explosion. A DNR camera picked up the vibration, picked up the explosion," said McQuaid. "911 calls came in all over Marion County. People in Lawrence thought it was in their neighborhood."

That's because the gas explosion was equal to about five tons of TNT. 

The plot uncovered

The plot, as police later uncovered, was to collect $300,000 in insurance money on Monserrate Shirley's house. 

"If you can imagine in the dark of night the sky full of flaming, falling debris, fire engines rushing up, the danger of more explosions," said McQuaid, in an interview on Abdul At Large on WIBC. "The utter devastation was just incredible, and not just the locate where Monserrate Shirley's house was, the houses immediately next to it." 

The explosion brought over 60 firefighters to the scene. 

"Across the street the doors blown in, the walls blown down, the garages, the cars. It was utter devastation, just unbelievable and you thought to yourself, how are they ever gonna figure this one out?" 

But they did. The big clue was that there was no other gas leak. 

The people who went to prison

Investigators found out that Mark Leonard and Shirley had spent the weekend at the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, had boarded the cat, had sent Shirley's 12-year-old daughter to a friend's house, and had taken papers and other items from the home. 

Mark and Bob Leonard got life sentences because two people died in the blast, John and Jennifer Longworth, next door neighbors. Shirley got a fifty-year sentence. 

Glen Hults and Gary Thompson were also charged as co-conspirators. 

The neighborhood is now mostly back to normal.

PHOTO: RTV6

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