People describe confusion after Indianapolis house explosion

Jun 10, 2015, 1:30 PM
In this file photo taken on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, Mark Leonard walks to a pre-trial hearing in Indianapolis. Leonard is one of three people charged with rigging a house to explode to collect insurance. Opening statements were scheduled Monday afternoon in the trial of Mark Leonard after the final jurors were selected. Leonard faces 53 charges, including murder, arson and conspiracy, in what prosecutors say was a plan to blow up a house to collect insurance money. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, FILE)
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings, FILE)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — There was confusion in the moments after a late-night explosion rocked an Indianapolis neighborhood in November 2012, residents told jurors Wednesday, with one woman thinking a vehicle had hit her house and an Army veteran saying he had a flashback to Afghanistan.

Prosecutors called Richmond Hill neighborhood residents to the stand a second day in the trial for 46-year-old Mark Leonard, who, along with live-in girlfriend Monserrate Shirley and half brother Bob Leonard, is accused of using natural gas to blow up a house in an attempt to collect $300,000 in insurance money.

Mark Leonard is charged with murder in the deaths of John “Dion” Longworth and his wife, Jennifer, as well as arson, conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

Prosecutors tried to paint a picture of the emotional and property damage inflicted upon the south-side Indianapolis neighborhood. Several people testified how it appeared to be snowing because of insulation falling from the sky. They all described extensive damage to homes — garage and entry doors broken, walls cracked, siding damaged and pictures knocked off walls.

“Initially just everyone on the street was in their driveways trying to figure out what had happened,” resident David Clager said.

Jurors got a glimpse of the chaos when prosecutors played a video Amy Clark took with her cellphone following the blast.

“It’s so dark. Oh my God,” she said as she looked around. “They can’t get out. Oh my God! Look! There!” she said, as a burning home can be seen.

As the brief tape video ends, Clark says: “What? How?”

Mark Hickson, a paramedic and firefighter with the Lawrence Fire Department who lives in Richmond Hill, spoke about rescuing a woman sitting in a chair buried up to her neck by debris in the living room of her burning house. He was able to free her and then tried to rescue the two children he was told were upstairs.

“I went upstairs but it was too hot for me to continue,” said Hickson. “It started to burn your skin.”

Hickson said he didn’t learn until the next day that the children got out safely before he arrived.

Walter Colbert said the explosion gave him a flashback to being deployed in Afghanistan when a bomb went off.

“I wasn’t sure where I was,” he said before describing heading toward the explosion. “It was eerily quiet and this big hole down where some houses used to be,” he said.

Cindy Glynn became emotional as she described how her 12-year-old son came running into her bedroom wide-eyed and frightened. She said her then-boyfriend, who she has since married, ran down the street to see what had happened and came back saying they needed to get out “because everything was going to blow.”

Glynn said her son slept on the floor of her bedroom for months and scared to go home after school.

About 175 witnesses are expected to testify during the trial, which is expected to last four to six weeks. One female juror was excused Wednesday for what St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha described as a family tragedy. The jury now has five alternates.

The trial was moved to South Bend because of extensive media coverage in central Indiana.

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People describe confusion after Indianapolis house explosion