4th person arrested in explosion

A fourth person has been arrested on suspicion of involvement with the Richmond Hill home explosion.

Police arrested Gary Thompson, 44, on Wednesday, but prosecutors won’t release any information until today about what charge he faces or details of his suspected involvement in the southside explosion, Marion County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman A.J. Deer said.

Deer did confirm that Thompson was arrested on at least one charge related to the Nov. 10, 2012, explosion that killed Greenwood teacher Jennifer Longworth and her husband, Dion.

Investigators previously said that at least one more person was suspected of being involved in the explosion. That information was in court documents that were released last week when one of the defendants, Monserrate Shirley, pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy to commit arson.

The court documents refer to an “uncharged individual or individuals” who were involved in the plot to blow up Shirley’s house to collect insurance. After the change-of-plea hearing last week, Marion County deputy prosecutor Denise Robertson said Shirley had shared information with investigators and they were already researching one additional person.

Prosecutors would not confirm if Thompson is the “uncharged individual” referred to in the court documents from Shirley’s case.

Police said Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother Bob Leonard Jr. had planned to blow up Shirley’s home in the Richmond Hill subdivision to help pay off mortgages and credit card debt totaling more than $275,000. They unsuccessfully attempted to blow up the house two times before succeeding, according to court documents.

Natural gas built up in the home after a regulator on the gas line and a valve from the fireplace were removed; and a timer ignited the gas, according to court documents. The massive blast that resulted could be felt for miles and damaged about 80 homes in the neighborhood.

The Longworths, who were Shirley’s neighbors, were killed in the eruption.

Shirley and the Leonards were charged with two counts of murder and more than 50 other felonies.

As part of her plea agreement, Shirley agreed to cooperate with investigators and prosecutors in the case against the Leonards and any other suspects charged in connection to the case.