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Police: House explosion was not an accident

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Fox59 News has learned that Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department homicide detectives have determined that the Nov. 10 explosion at the Richmond Hill subdivision was an intentional act.

“A criminal homicide investigation” is how police are referring to the probe. The Indianapolis Fire Department still considers this a fire investigation. Richmond Hill residents will be advised of the decision Monday during a 6 p.m. meeting at Southport Presbyterian Church.

That meeting will include IMPD, IFD, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, Adam Collins of the Department of Code Enforcement and Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons.

In other developments, the boyfriend of the woman whose house exploded told Fox59 News he was meeting with investigators today as crews continue to sift through the debris to determine a cause in the fatal blast.

Mark Leonard was interviewed by investigators from State Farm Insurance, the company that insured the home of Moncy Shirley at 8349 Fieldfare Way. The home exploded in a natural gas blast in the Richmond Hill development.

Police, fire and insurance investigators continue their probe into the explosion that killed Jennifer and Dion Longworth, neighbors of Shirley and Leonard who lived in the Perry Township home.

Shirley and Leonard were at the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg when the explosion occurred.

Neighborhood damages are listed at $4.4 million.

For the first time, Fox59 News is getting a look inside the Shirley home before the blast.

When Shirley listed her home for sale in March 2011, a real estate agent took pictures of the property and its contents.

The photos depict a tastefully and comfortably decorated two-story, four-bedroom home.

Shown in the photos are tables, chairs, couches, beds and kitchen appliances—items investigators are looking for as they comb through the debris at Shirley’s home.

A disclosure form filed with the listing and signed by Shirley indicates no problems with the home’s gas furnace, water heater or fireplace or its electric stove and oven.

Shirley first listed the home for nearly $189,000. The price dropped to $149,000 before the home was taken off the market this past spring.

The filing contains notice that, “Seller discloses that the sale of this property will require lender approval of a short sale,” which would require Shirley to put up cash to complete the deal.

A source indicates that a short sale this past summer fell through due to Shirley’s inability to provide $30,000 as part of the bargain.

Approximately 70 investigators from various agencies have probed the wreckage since the time of the blast including fire investigators looking for signs of arson and IMPD homicide detectives conducting a death investigation.

Detectives also would be looking to recover evidence such as appliances or devices that may have been altered or had unusual settings.

“At this point they’re still processing the scene and looking at things that may have come from the interior of one of the homes there,” said Capt. Rita Reith of the Indianapolis Fire Department. “The reality is there is a large area that they’re looking at simply because it was an explosion. They have to cover the entire area. They’re collecting and searching, making sure they leave no stone unturned.”

Upon the finding of the National Transportation Safety Board that the gas lines of Citizens Energy were not to blame for the blast, Indianapolis Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons said, “Our investigators believe natural gas is involved. They are currently in the process of recovering the appliances from the destroyed homes to help determine the cause. Based on the NTSB statement, our focus is on the houses and appliances.”

Investigators have also recovered the gas meter from the home. They will test it to determine if it registered an unusual spike in natural gas usage the day of the blast.

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