The Associated Press
Nine jurors have been seated for the trial of a man charged in a deadly southside home explosion, but the start of the trial could be delayed.
The trial of Mark Leonard was moved to South Bend because of extensive publicity in Indianapolis. He is charged with murder, arson and other felonies in the November 2012 blast that killed Greenwood teacher Jennifer Longworth and her husband John “Dion” Longworth, and damaged or destroyed about 80 homes.
Prosecutors say Leonard was the mastermind of a plot to blow up the Richmond Hill house belonging to his then-girlfriend and collect insurance money to pay mounting debts.
Initially, Leonard’s trial was set to begin Monday. But due to the slow jury selection, that start could be delayed.
On Friday, nine jurors were selected, a day after a judge dismissed 56 prospective jurors who expressed doubts that they could be impartial. Many potential jurors initially had indicated they would be able to give Leonard a fair trial. But that changed after defense attorney Diane Black disclosed that Leonard is charged with trying to have a witness killed, and jurors said they would presume Leonard was guilty.
Another 70 prospective jurors were called the next day, where St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha had said he would keep a tighter rein over the questioning.
The trial is expected to include dozens of witnesses and a mountain of evidence, including a recording of Dion Longworth just before he died.
Prosecutors say Leonard masterminded a scheme to blow up a house belonging to Monserrate Shirley, his girlfriend at the time, and collect $300,000 in insurance proceeds to pay off mounting gambling and credit card debts. Shirley, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the case, is expected to testify against Leonard.
Three other people also have been charged, including Leonard’s half brother, Bob Leonard.