SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - A man trapped in a gap in his basement when his home collapsed following the explosion of a neighboring Indianapolis house pleaded with firefighters to get him out as the fire closed in, a firefighter testified Tuesday.
“He was saying, ‘It’s so hot, so hot. Get me out! Please, get me out!” Indianapolis firefighter Richard Shirven said.
Shirven was telling jurors what John “Dion” Longworth said to him and fire Lt. Dean Teagardin as they tried to rescue him before he died on Nov. 10, 2012. He was testifying in the trial for 46-year-old Mark Leonard, who is charged with murder, arson, conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud in the explosion that killed Longworth and his wife, Jennifer.
Leonard is accused of conspiring with his then-girlfriend Monserrate Shirley, who he lived with in the house next to the Longworths, and his half brother Bob Leonard to use natural gas to blow up the house to collect $300,000 in insurance. Two others also face charges. Defense attorneys said in opening arguments it was an insurance fraud attempt gone awry.
Teagardin told jurors about 80 percent of the Longworth house was on fire by the time firefighters arrived minutes after the explosion. Shriven said they could see Longworth through a hole 4- to 5-inches high and a foot long.
“He could move like he was in a box,” Teagardin said. “He could move side to side but he could not escape.”
Shirven said he was able to grab Longworth’s hand but was unable to pull him out because the hole was too small and he couldn’t make it bigger.
“He knew what was going to happen if he didn’t get out,” Shriven said.
Teagardin said he tried to take off his mask to see if he could get closer to Longworth, but the heat was too intense.
“It was just extreme heat,” he said.
Shriven said Teagardin eventually said they had to move back because of the heat was too intense. He said he looked back and the area where Longworth had been “was a ball of flame. He was gone.”
Dr. Joye Carter, the chief forensic pathologist with the Marion County Coroner’s Office, testified Longworth died of inhaling hot gases and soot and that he had burns over 90 percent of his body. She said Jennifer Longworth died of blast injuries that caused almost instant death.
People living closest to the blast told jurors about being trapped under debris in their homes in the moments after the explosion and needing help from neighbors to get out. Gloria Olvey testified how she was watching television with her then-husband Glenn and daughter Katherine and turned to speak to them when she suddenly felt something hit her face.
She said everything went dark, she saw flashes and then the ceiling collapsed on her. She said she could hear her daughter saying, “I’m bleeding. I’m bleeding. I can’t move.”
Katherine, who is 16 now, told jurors she panicked because she was bleeding from her forehead.
Gloria Olvey said she couldn’t move either because of the debris piled on her legs. She said some neighbors came in and dug her out. More than 80 neighbors testified about what they went through after the blast through the first six days of the trial.
The trial was delayed 40 minutes Tuesday while waiting for additional witnesses to arrive. Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson told St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge John Marnocha the trial that is expected to last four to six weeks is a day ahead of schedule.
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