Attorney: Blast suspect tried to reach plea deal

The Associated Press


A defense attorney for a suspect in the southside house explosion says they’ve tried to negotiate a plea agreement for him.

Attorney Dave Shircliff told a judge in South Bend on Wednesday that Mark Leonard’s defense team has made a “good faith” effort to reach a deal.

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson said there are no negotiations and she’s prepared to go to trial June 4.

Leonard faces murder, arson and conspiracy charges in connection with the November 2012 explosion at former girlfriend Monserrate Shirley’s house, which killed a couple living next door and damaged or destroyed more than 50 homes.

The explosion in the subdivision located just north of County Line Road killed neighbor Jennifer Longworth and her husband, Dion. Longworth was a teacher at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood.

Leonard’s case has been moved to South Bend because of pretrial publicity.

Shirley pleaded guilty in January to two counts of conspiracy to commit arson and agreed to testify against Leonard, his brother Bob Leonard Jr. and Gary Thompson, who was charged about a week after her guilty plea. She’ll face 20 to 50 years in prison and will be sentenced after the other cases are resolved.

Cases for Bob Leonard Jr. and Thompson are ongoing.