- Associated Press - Friday, August 12, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - One of five people charged in a deadly house explosion that devastated an Indianapolis neighborhood pleaded guilty Friday to a conspiracy charge after agreeing to a deal with prosecutors.

Gary Thompson, 45, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit arson and is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 2 to 30 years in prison with 10 years suspended.

His plea deal is similar to that of Monserrate Shirley, the woman whose cooperation with prosecutors led to the charges against Thompson. Thompson had faced a September trial on two counts of murder and other charges, but prosecutors announced Tuesday that they had reached a plea agreement with him.

The natural gas explosion on Nov. 10, 2012, leveled Shirley’s home, killed a couple who lived next door and damaged or destroyed more than 80 homes.

Shirley reached her plea deal in January 2015. Two other people have since been convicted in the blast and another faces a November trial.

The father of Dion Longworth, who was killed in the blast along with his wife, Jennifer Longworth, testified at Friday’s hearing that he’s unhappy Thompson may eventually leave prison. He also complained that none of the five people charged in the case have ever apologized, WXIN-TV reported (https://bit.ly/2aN8lAS ).

“At the trial you get to hear about how the victims died and how some of the neighbors tried to save them. When you just settle things and cut things short, it’s like something is taken from you,” John Longworth said.

Prosecutors allege Thompson knew of plans to tamper with the natural gas flow into Shirley’s home and ignite the gas using a microwave on a timer. Court documents allege the house was destroyed in a scheme to collect $300,000 in insurance after two previous unsuccessful attempts to burn it down.

Authorities have said Mark Leonard created the plan and enlisted the others. He was convicted in July 2015 of murder, arson and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and sentenced to two life sentences without parole plus 75 years. His half brother, Bob Leonard, was convicted in February of murder, arson and other charges and also sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without parole, plus 70 years.

Shirley’s cooperation with prosecutors after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit arson led to charges against Thompson and another alleged co-conspirator, Glenn Hults.

Hults is scheduled to stand trial in November on a charge of conspiracy to commit arson.

Shirley will be sentenced after Hults’ case is resolved. She faces from a minimum 20-year suspended sentence with probation to a maximum 50-year prison term.

___

Information from: WXIN-TV, https://fox59.trb.com/news/

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide