Updated April 30, 2019 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff
An Indianapolis man has been found guilty of murder, arson, and insurance fraud for the part he played in a 2012 scheme to blow up a house and collect the insurance money. The plan went awry when the house exploded with far more force than anticipated, resulting in widespread damage to the neighborhood. Two people in the house next door were killed. Publicity surrounding the explosion and the criminal prosecutions that followed was so intense that the courts agreed to move at least two of the trials to other cities.
This case underscores the reality that you can never be fully protected from the reckless acts of others, even in your own home. When they happen, legal help is a necessity in getting full restitution.
Prosecutors alleged—and the jury agreed—that Bob Leonard, his brother Mark Leonard, and Mark’s girlfriend, Monserrate Shirley, who owned the house, conspired to destroy it to collect $300,000 in insurance money.
On November 10, 2012, the house, in the Richmond Hill subdivision of Indianapolis, was intentionally filled with natural gas, which was then detonated, probably with a microwave oven on a timer. The explosion has been estimated to have had the equivalent power of three tons of TNT and not only completely destroyed the house but also damaged 60–80 other neighborhood homes, 33 of which had to be demolished. Over $4 million in property damage was inflicted. John and Jennifer Longworth, living in the house next door, were killed.
An exploding house might seem like an event that’s so rare most people will never experience one. There’s some truth to that, but the actual risk is greater than you might think. Natural gas and gasoline pipelines are everywhere, and sometimes they are not properly maintained. They’re also not always properly marked, leading to accidents caused by construction and other activities.
The reality is that in the United States, on average there is some sort of pipeline leak or explosion, including those in individual structures, every two to three days. It was reported in 2013 that about 14 people are killed and 50 injured by such leaks and explosions every year.
Every one of us hopes that nothing like this ever happens to them. The Richmond case is extreme—a deliberate explosion, designed to cause damage, which resulted in tremendous destruction and two deaths. But events with less malice happen frequently. Whether they are the result of reckless acts, as in the Richmond Hill subdivision, or the carelessness or negligence of others, victims are potentially entitled to compensation for any injuries or property damage caused.
If a tragedy such as this strikes you and your family, contact an Indianapolis personal injury lawyer from Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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