March 18, 2016 / 9:19 PM / 3 years ago

Indiana man gets life sentence for 2012 fatal house explosion

(Reuters) - An Indiana man was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for his part in causing a 2012 home explosion that killed two neighbors, injured dozens of people and damaged scores of homes in an Indianapolis neighborhood, a court official said.

Bob Leonard Jr received two consecutive life sentences without parole for two murder counts, said John McGauley, court executive of Allen Superior Court in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Monserrate Shirley and brothers Bob and Mark Leonard had been charged with murder and arson in the Nov. 10, 2012, explosion that destroyed the home where Shirley lived with Mark Leonard. The explosion and fire also burned the home next door, killing John and Jennifer Longworth.

Prosecutors have said that the three tried to burn down the house for insurance money. Personal property insurance was increased on the house and photographs and personal financial records were removed before the blast, prosecutors have said.

The explosion was caused by using a microwave oven on a timer to ignite natural gas that was allowed to build up in the house, according to prosecutors.

Bob Leonard also was sentenced to an additional 70 years for arson and conspiracy charges, McGauley said. A lawyer for Leonard could not be reached for comment.

In August 2015, Mark Leonard was given two life sentences without parole and another 75 years in prison for other charges.

Shirley agreed to plead guilty to two felony counts of conspiracy to commit arson. Other charges against her were dropped. She also provided information for prosecutors.

Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by James Dalgleish

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