INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The house explosion that killed two people and destroyed
several homes in an Indianapolis neighborhood is now being investigated as a
homicide, authorities said, though no suspects have been named.
Indianapolis Homeland Security Director Gary Coons announced the criminal
investigation Monday evening, shortly after a funeral was held for the
husband and wife who had lived next door to the house where investigators
believe the blast occurred.
"We are turning this into a criminal homicide investigation,” Coons said
after meeting with residents, the first public acknowledgement by
investigators of a possible criminal element to the Nov. 10 explosion.
Search warrants have been executed and officials are now looking for a white
van that was seen in the subdivision on the day of the blast, Marion County
Prosecutor Terry Curry said. Federal authorities are offering a $10,000
reward for information in the case.
Curry said the investigation is aimed at “determining if there are
individuals who may be responsible for this explosion and fire,” but neither
he nor Coons took questions or indicated if investigators had any suspects.
No arrests have been made.
A lawyer representing Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard, who lived in that
home that is believed to have exploded, said Tuesday that the couple was
bewildered by the new direction of the investigation.
Randall Cable said in a statement that Shirley and Leonard have “cooperated
fully” with investigators and that they want the cause “of this horrific and
saddening tragedy to be determined.”
Officials say they believe natural gas was involved in the explosion, which
destroyed five homes and left dozens damaged. Investigators have focused on
appliances in their search for a cause. The explosion caused an estimated
$4.4 million in damage.
"We thought something like this was not just an accident,” said Doug
Aldridge, who heads the neighborhood Crime Watch.
Aldridge said he and other residents frequently saw a white van parked
outside the home, though he didn’t know who owned it. He said residents are
angry and upset but that he expects most of them to stay in the
Hundreds of people attended the funeral Monday for John Dion Longworth, 34,
and his 36-year-old wife Jennifer Longworth.
She was a second-grade teacher remembered for knitting gifts for her
students, while her husband, an electronics expert, was known as a gardener
and nature lover. The school where Jennifer Longworth taught was closed
Monday so teachers and students could attend the funeral.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard told reporters after attending the
Longworths’ funeral Monday that he had been having a hard time coming to
terms with what happened.
“There is a search for truth and there is a search for justice,” Ballard
John Shirley, who co-owns the house with his ex-wife, Monserrate, has told
The Associated Press that he had recently received a text message from his
12-year-old daughter saying the furnace in the home had gone out.
Monserrate Shirley said Leonard had replaced the thermostat and that the
furnace was working. Cable has said the daughter told her mother she had
smelled an odd odor in recent weeks, but they hadn’t reported it.
Shirley and Leonard were away at a casino at the time of the blast, Cable
said. The daughter was staying with a friend, and the family’s cat was being