Monserrate Shirley, the Indianapolis homeowner whose house is suspected of being the source of a deadly explosion that damaged nearly 80 homes in her subdivision, was inconsolable Tuesday as she wept while speaking publicly for the first time about the horrific incident.
"Everybody's pointing a finger at me like I did something wrong," Shirley said in a video posted on the Indianapolis Star newspaper's website. "I mean, I'm totally devastated like my neighbors are."
There's little remaining of Shirley's home (pictured at left) after Saturday's explosion. A second home was reduced to rubble as well, and other houses were half-collapsed. The force of the blast shattered windows and ripped down garage doors at dozens of other homes in the neighborhood. Shirley's next-door neighbors, John and Jennifer Longworth, died in the blast.
"It's like waking up to this bad dream," Shirley said, her voice cracking as tears flowed down her cheeks. "I mean, sometimes I wish I was there and I'd be dead, and now I wouldn't have to be asked so many questions."
Shirley said that she was at a casino bar at the time of the explosion, and her boyfriend and daughter -- who also live with her -- weren't home either.
John Shirley, her ex-husband, who owns the home with her, told The Associated Press that he believed the home's faulty furnace could have led to the explosion. He said that his daughter had mentioned that the furnace wasn't working, and he wondered whether a gas leak ignited the blast.
Investigators have ruled out a natural gas leak from the home's underground pipelines, the Star reported, and they are now focusing on whether there may have been a leak from one of the gas appliances inside three homes that were obliterated in the explosion.
"Our investigators believe natural gas is involved," the Indianapolis Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. "They are currently in the process of recovering the appliances from destroyed homes to help determine the cause."
Monserrate Shirley denied her ex-husband's claim that the furnace might be to blame. She said that she, her boyfriend and her daughter stayed overnight at a hotel weeks before the explosion because the heat had turned off. But once the thermostat was replaced, she said, everything was fine.
A source who claimed to be in contact with the Shirley family told WISH-TV in Indianapolis that a family member had complained about smelling gas in the home at one time. It was unclear when the complaint was made and whether the utility company was alerted.
Shirley said she has been reeling from the pain of people blaming her for the tragic event.
"I have everybody telling me stuff that they said on the TV," she said. "You know, I'm just shocked like everybody else.... I didn't do nothing wrong."
She said that she hasn't been eating or sleeping well and that she has been taking Xanax to get what little sleep she can.
"I feel like, you know, it would have been better off for me to be there [at the house when it exploded]," Shirley said.
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