Indianapolis House Explosion That Killed 2 Now Investigated as Homicide

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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.

The incident was originally thought to have been caused by a faulty furnace, one of the homeowners said.

Indianapolis Homeland Security Director Gary Coons announced the criminal investigation Monday evening, shortly after a funeral was held for the husband and wife (pictured below) who had lived next door to the house where investigators believe the blast occurred.

Indianapolis house explosion homicide"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 the home that is believed to have exploded, said Tuesday that the couple was bewildered by the new direction of the investigation.

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See the Devastating Scene of the Indianapolis House Explosion
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Indianapolis House Explosion That Killed 2 Now Investigated as Homicide

Demolished vehicles sit in a destroyed attached garage at a home on Fieldfare Way in the Richmond Hills subdivision in Indianapolis. An explosion destroyed or damaged as many as 80 structures in the subdivision late Saturday night.

Citizens Energy workers continue their investigation by digging into the front sidewalk, looking for possible explanations for the explosion of a house in Indianapolis. The search for what caused a massive, deadly explosion that rocked an Indianapolis neighborhood turned to natural gas, with officials checking gas lines and a homeowner saying a problem furnace could be to blame.

Citizens Energy workers continue their investigation into the explosion.

Citizens Energy workers continue their investigation into the explosion.

Citizens Energy workers continue their investigation into the explosion.

Onlookers try to view the damage that destroyed two homes and made dozens more uninhabitable in Indianapolis. The explosion killed two people.


Emergency personnel stand next to a home that was destroyed by an explosion in Indianapolis. The powerful nighttime blast shattered windows, crumpled walls and could be felt at least three miles away.

Emergency workers walk down a street across from a home heavily damaged by an explosion in Indianapolis.

A burned car sits in a pile of debris at the site of a home explosion in Indianapolis. 

Citizens Energy Group workers work at the site of a home explosion in Indianapolis. 

Emergency personnel work at the site of a home that was destroyed by an explosion in Indianapolis.

This aerial photo shows the two homes that were leveled and the numerous neighboring homes that were damaged from a massive explosion that sparked a huge fire and killed two people in Indianapolis.

This aerial photo shows the two homes that were leveled and the numerous neighboring homes that were damaged from a massive explosion that sparked a huge fire and killed two people in Indianapolis.

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Shirley said in a video on the Indianapolis Star newspaper's website last week that investigators had asked her whether she had any enemies who wanted to kill her, suggesting that someone possibly planted a bomb in her home.

Shirley cried in the video and said that people were blaming her for the blast.

"Everybody's pointing a finger at me like I did something wrong," Shirley said. "I mean, I'm totally devastated like my neighbors are.

"It's like waking up to this bad dream," she continued. "I mean, sometimes I was there and I'd be dead, and I wouldn't have to be asked so many questions."



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 neighborhood.

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 said.

John Shirley, who co-owns the house with his ex-wife, Monserrate Shirley, 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 that 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 boarded.

AOL Real Estate contributed to this report.

See also:
Mother Arrested After Leaving Children Alone With No Power and Gas Oven On

Apartment Fire Safety Tips
Man Killed as Gas Explosion Destroys Connecticut Home


35 PHOTOS
Disasters That Ruined Whole Towns
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Indianapolis House Explosion That Killed 2 Now Investigated as Homicide

As we gear up for the height of the hurricane season (also a time when tornados, wildfires and floods are common), we're taking a look back at some of the worst natural disasters in recent memory and how they reshaped the affected regions. Entire towns have been wiped off the map, and you'll be as shocked as we were to see the before and after shots of areas that have been hardest-hit by storms and other natural phenomena.

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Source: The Weather Channel

Numerous homes were devastated, reduced to rubble. The tornado left a trail of destruction 80.7 miles long. It was the costliest tornado in United States history, until ...

Source: The Weather Channel

When: May 22, 2011
Cost of damage: $2.8 billion
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The quaint town of Joplin was nearly wiped off the map when an EF5 tornado struck. About 2,000 buildings were destroyed in the storm, which reached sustained winds of over 200 mph. It beat the Tuscaloosa tornado to become the costliest twister in U.S. history.

The tornado grew to a width of over 1 mile as it made its way through the southern part of Joplin.

This Joplin neighborhood was rendered unrecognizable after the tornado hit.

But it returned to some semblance of normalcy a year later, after ongoing recovery efforts to rebuild.

When: December 2010-January 2011
Cost of damage: $30+ billion
Casualties: 38

Brisbane, the capitol city of Queensland in Australia, was one of the most affected areas in a massive flood that began in December 2010. Half of Queensland, which is more than 715,000 square miles large, was affected.

Source: NearMap

At least 70 towns and over 200,000 people were affected by the rising waters. In Brisbane, residents of 2,100 streets were ordered to evacuate. The flood waters peaked at 14.6 feet, the 10th highest in the city's history.

Source: NearMap

What Brisbane looked like before the flood.

Source: NearMap

And what the area looked like after the flood.

Source: NearMap

Date: August 23-30, 2005
Cost of damage: $108 billion
Casualties: 1,833

The Superdome arena in New Orleans became one of the most well-known symbols of the storm's devastation when Hurricane Katrina rolled through the area. Katrina was the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history and the deadliest since 1928. The Category 3 hurricane caused New Orleans' levee system to fail, sending floodwater into 80 percent of the city. This is the Superdome before the storm.

After Katrina, the Superdome was used to house 26,000 people who were unable to evacuate the city before the storm. The National Guard delivered truckloads of food and water for the evacuees. After the storm, it took $185 million to repair and refurbish the stadium, which was reopened in 2006 in time for the New Orleans Saints' opening game of the season.

New Orleans was a majestic city before Katrina struck.

But much of the city became submerged after its levees crumbled under Katrina's force.

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Cost of Damage: Estimated $14 billion
Casualties: 316,000 (Haiti government estimate)

The National Palace in Haiti's capitol of Port-au-Prince was a beautiful property where the Haitian president lived. But its beauty crumbled under a devastating magnitude-7.0 earthquake -- one of the deadliest in history. In addition to the horrific number of deaths, the earthquake injured 300,000 people, and 1 million people lost their homes.

Photo: Michelle W. Eriksson via CC 2.0

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In January 2012, it was reported that 500,000 Haitians still remained homeless.

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Casualties: 15,861 confirmed by Japan's National Police Agency

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The city of Natori before the earthquake ...

... and after, nearly completely destroyed.

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Cost of damage: Estimated $15.6 billion
Casualties: At least 44

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Stinson's home, which he shared with his wife, Sandra, and daughter, Erin, was completely blown away by Irene, leaving nothing behind but the staircase. The home had been in his family since 1963. Sandra had told North Carolina's Our State magazine in 2010: "God has really protected it [the home]. ... We have had so many storms, and really, inside, we've only had damage one time since Billy's family has owned it."

The town of Rodanthe before Irene's wrath ...

... and what remained after the storm.

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Cost of damage: Estimated $29.6 billion
Casualties: At least 195

After slamming into Cuba as a Category 4 hurricane, Ike moved along the Gulf of Mexico, devastating areas from the Louisiana coast all the way to Kenedy County, Texas, near Corpus Christi. Crystal Beach, Texas, was hit particularly hard. This is what the waterfront town looked like before the storm.

The town was devastated, with most coastline properties wiped away.

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Cost of damage: Estimated at around $23 billion
Casualties: 185

The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch was considered the finest renaissance-style building in New Zealand. But all that changed when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the region. Damage to Christchurch was extensive, primarily because another earthquake that had struck six months earlier had already weakened many of the city's structures. This is the cathedral before the earthquake ...

... and following the disaster. The two bell towers collapsed in the quake, and the building's dome was destabilized. The dome was eventually removed. It is yet to be determined whether the cathedral will be restored or demolished.

The historic Christchurch Cathedral was built in the second half of the 19th century, but the earthquake changed it considerably. ...

... as the spire and part of the tower of the church was destroyed in the quake. Work to demolish the building began in March 2012, and a temporary cathedral is being built.

When: June 26, 2012
Homes damaged: 347 houses
Casualties: 1

A fire sparked in the Waldo Canyon in Colorado Springs jumped firefighters' perimeter lines and quickly spread, devouring 347 homes. More than 9,000 residents were forced to evacuate.

The fire left several homes completely burnt to the ground.

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