Monserrate Shirley and her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, blew up their own house and destroyed part of a neighborhood in an Indianapolis explosion in the Richmond Hills subdivision four years ago. Now, the insurance scam case has attracted the attention of Snapped: Killer Couples, an Oxygen-based television crime series that focuses on dangerous couples. The episode, titled “Monserrate Shirley & Mark Leonard,” will center on two lovers whose passions ignited when they first laid eyes on each other. However, as money problems set in and a fiery explosion blasts through their neighborhood, killing two innocent people, police uncover a deadly insurance scam that blazes a trail right back to them.
Circumstances of the Indianapolis Neighborhood Explosion
Neighbors in the Richmond Hills neighborhood were awakened by a loud explosion after 11 p.m. on a winter night in November 2012. Everyone looked on in horror as they watched the huge puffs of fire fill the sky. It was pure chaos as police tried to evacuate everyone, and at first, there were reports of people missing. As firefighters worked feverishly to put out the massive blaze that had spread from Fieldfare Way to other nearby streets, Monserrate Shirley, a divorced single mother, was enjoying a night out at a casino. When she got the call that her home had exploded, she rushed back and seemed distraught to know that her furnace had not only destroyed her home but over 80 other homes as well.
— WISH-TV (@WISH_TV) January 20, 2015
But it was worse. Monserrate Shirley’s neighbors, Jennifer and John Dion Longworth, died after their home was destroyed in the blaze. In fact, another neighbor had tried desperately to help John Longworth escape before the flames moved in, according to IndyStar.
“Bryan Hollingsworth heard John Longworth saying, ‘I’m in here and I’m trapped.’ He could see a bloody Longworth through a hole. Longworth asked about his wife, telling Hollingsworth she was in the second-floor bedroom. Hollingsworth said he didn’t have the heart to tell Longworth the second floor was gone.”
— emily (@emchicken) November 10, 2015
Firefighters finally got control of the blaze, which smoldered and lingered in the air for hours after it was extinguished. In the days ahead, an embarrassed Monserrate did everything she could to avoid television interviews, since rumors had already spread that she and her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, may have been involved.
Monserrate Shirley didn’t know it, but the investigators had already started to suspect that the explosion was no accident. Eventually, Monserrate could no longer take the heat and decided to confess. According to her, the fire was started so that they could collect insurance money to help wipe out their financial debts due to Mark Leonard’s gambling problem. She explained that she went along with the insurance plot because Mark and his brother made her do it. Plus, she didn’t think anyone would get hurt.
— RTV6 Indianapolis (@rtv6) February 11, 2016
Monserrate Shirley was a divorced Puerto Rican mother whose exotic looks quickly attracted Mark Leonard. Mark was a handsome man with sex appeal and a lot of money, judging by his stash of cash and fast luxury cars. The couple’s steamy relationship lasted for about a month before they moved in together. Soon, their financial world collapsed, leaving them desperate for more money. Monserrate’s ex-husband, John Shirley, was shocked by the allegations, according to WTHR.
“It’s shocking to me. I was married to the woman for 18 years. She was a nurse for over 25 years. There were times when she came home and talked about saving a life and helping save a life and this just definitely not the person. Even now, when I saw her in court, her whole attitude was that somebody was out to get her. I’m just seeing a whole sociopathic behavior with her not being able to deal with any kind of guilt or remorse. I’m going to try to be supportive to her as much as I can. She’s the mother of my daughter.”
At trial, Monserrate often cried and seemed remorseful for what happened, stating that she only did what Leonard told her to do, and that her neighbors didn’t deserve what happened to them. A jury convicted both Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard. Shirley is waiting to be sentenced. Leonard received life in prison.
Watch Snapped: Killer Couples this Sunday, May 28, at 9/8 p.m. central on Oxygen.
[Photo By AP Photo/Darron Cummings, FILE]