Richmond Hill explosion killed educator and her husband
Southsider Voice correspondent
There has been a little good news in the aftermath of the Richmond Hill explosion in November 2012.
A new media center at Southwest Elementary in Greenwood was recently dedicated as a lasting memorial to teacher Jennifer Longworth who was killed in a gas explosion next door that also claimed the life of her husband, Dion Longworth.
The center was part of a $2 million renovation and expansion project that was completed last year.
Longworth taught for 12 years at the school on West Smith Valley Road, where teachers have continued one of her favorite hobbies, knitting scarves and hats for children at the school.
A special ceremony Jan. 21 was observed at the school just one day before what should have been her 39th birthday. The media center carries on Longworth’s desire to encourage all students at the school to read.
Longworth and her husband lived next door to Monseratte Shirley in the subdivision between Smock Golf Course and St. Francis Hospital. They were killed in a gas explosion on the night of Nov. 10, 2012, that destroyed 30 homes and damaged about 50 more residences.
The blast could be heard as far away as New Palestine.
Shirley, former boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother, Bob Leonard, were arrested a few weeks later and charged with a variety of arson and murder charges.
The day before the center was dedicated, Shirley pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit arson in a plea agreement entered in Marion Superior Court.
She faces 20 to 50 years in prison with a possibility of a suspended sentence. She originally faced 54 counts, including murder, which carried a life sentence without parole. Judge Sheila Carlisle said she expects Shirley to cooperate with prosecutors.
She is to remain in jail and is represented by prominent criminal attorney James Voyles. During his request for the plea bargain, it was revealed that the Leonards made two previous unsuccessful attempts in October 2012 to destroy Shirley’s home in the 8300 block of Fieldfare Way. The Leonards and Shirley conspired to blow up her house to collect insurance money.
According to documents, an “ignition source’ was used to touch off the deadly and devastating explosion.
The Leonards face multiple charges in separate cases. Mark Leonard was granted a change of venue from a trial in Marion County. His trial is scheduled to start June 4 in South Bend.
Bob Leonard’s trial is not expected to begin until June 2016. His trial will not be held in Marion County, but the venue has not been set yet.