A judge on Monday entered not guilty pleas for the three people at the center of the fatal house explosion that killed two neighbors and damaged more than 80 nearby homes in November.
Wearing the standard-issue orange jumpsuits of the Marion County Jail, the three took turns appearing before Judge Sheila Carlisle in Marion Superior Court.
Monserrate Shirley, 47, her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, 43, and his half brother Robert "Bob" Leonard Jr., 54, are facing murder and several other felony charges in what authorities have called a senseless crime.
The judge entered a plea of not guilty for the three.
In requesting a public defender, Mark Leonard told the judge he made about $100,000 a year in restoration and property management but he did not have any money now. He said all his assets, including an unspecified amount of cash, were destroyed in the explosion.
"I don't have anything, it all burned," he told Carlisle. "All my money is gone. Everything. I had money in the house and it's not there and it's all gone."
None of the three suspects showed excessive emotion at the hearing. Shirley, who appeared first, initially struggled to hold back tears but quickly regained her composure. She was the only one of the three to hire an attorney, and her hearing lasted a few minutes.
The two Leonard men requested court-appointed attorneys, and their hearings lasted slightly longer as the judge asked questions to gauge their ability to hire lawyers. She ultimately appointed attorneys for both men.
Investigators said the three conspired to blow up Shirley's home to collect about $300,000 in insurance money, which Shirley and Mark Leonard needed after gambling away thousands of dollars and amassing sizable credit card debts.
Investigators said the Leonard brothers, who have a history of scamming people for money, hatched a plan to turn Shirley's house on Fieldfare Way on the city's Southeastside into a bomb. They said the two rigged the fireplace to pour out natural gas and set the microwave oven's timer to trigger the blast.
The explosion on the night of Nov. 10 destroyed several homes, damaged more than 80 and killed Jennifer Longworth, 36, and her husband, John "Dion" Longworth, 34, Shirley's next-door neighbors.
John Longworth's aunt, Pam Mosser, 50, attended the hearing and said afterward she hoped the defendants "die a horrible death."
"He (Longworth) burned and screamed until he died," said Mosser, a nurse who is married to Longworth's father. "I cannot forgive that. Both (John) and Jennifer died suffering and screaming. It is unbelievable to me that someone could be gambling and drinking while their house blows up and people are dying."
About 20 residents from the neighborhood attended the court hearing.
Shirley and the brothers were arrested and charged Friday after more than a month of investigation.
The recent development came as a relief to many residents who lost their homes and were forced to live in hotels after the blast.
Vicky Koerner, whose house was demolished, said she and her family will follow the case closely until it's over. But she said their minds are not on it right now.
"We're not thinking about tomorrow," Koerner said Sunday evening. "Tomorrow is just for family and Christmas, and we've got a long road ahead."
The Koerners are in the early process of rebuilding their home, which they built 11 years ago.
Shirley and the Leonard brothers each face two counts of felony murder; one count of conspiracy to commit arson, a Class A felony; 12 counts of arson, a Class A felony; and 33 counts of arson, a Class B felony.
Authorities said the case qualifies for the death penalty or life without parole because of multiple deaths.
Prosecutors will wait 30 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
"(We want) justice to be served," Koerner said. "She (Shirley) has just made so many wrong choices that ultimately led to this. I do feel they need to pay the consequences."