from the St. Joseph Superior Court, Division 2, No.
71D02-1408-MR-000009 The Honorable John M. Marnocha, Judge
Attorneys for Appellant Ruth Ann Johnson Marion County Public
Defender Victoria L. Bailey Deputy Public Defender
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Andrew A. Kobe Deputy Attorney General Jodi
Kathryn Stein Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.
other offenses a jury convicted Mark Leonard of two counts of
murder for which the trial court imposed consecutive life
without parole sentences. In this direct appeal Leonard
raises several issues for our review which we consolidate,
rephrase, and reorder as follows: (1) Is the evidence
sufficient to support the murder convictions; (2) Did the
State prove an alleged aggravator beyond a reasonable doubt;
(3) Did the trial court abuse its discretion by admitting
Leonard's out of court statements into evidence; and (4)
Is Indiana's life without parole statute
unconstitutional. We affirm Leonard's convictions and
Hill is a quiet subdivision on the southeast side of
Indianapolis. Shortly after 11:00 p.m. on November 10, 2012,
this tranquil enclave was rocked by a massive explosion that
could be heard for more than ten miles away. One Richmond
Hill resident awakened by the explosion is a combat veteran
who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The sound caused
him to have flashbacks and to question where he was. Other
Richmond Hill residents made their way outside to find homes
in a "shredded" state, a state of complete
"chaos"; and variously described what they saw:
"smoke", insulation falling like snow, "debris
absolutely everywhere, " "total destruction, "
a "war zone, " rubble "up to my knees, "
people "running" and screaming, people
"disoriented" and "dazed, "
"devastation, " "raining ash" and cinder,
a "blast zone." See generally Tr. at
803-1710. Firefighters at a station nearby heard and felt the
explosion, and even before emergency calls came in, they set
out in the direction of "a large plume of . . . debris
and smoke[.]" Tr. at 723. Approaching the neighborhood
these first responders observed several houses on fire.
Nearly thirty homes were damaged severely enough that they
had to be demolished. Others suffered extensive but
investigations into the explosion were conducted by the
Indianapolis Fire Department; the Indianapolis Metropolitan
Police Department; the Department of Homeland Security; the
federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives;
Citizens Energy Group; and various other federal and state
governmental agencies and insurance companies. Because of the
neighborhood's proximity to a municipal airport,
investigators initially questioned whether the explosion
could have been caused by an airplane crash. They also
considered the possibility that a methamphetamine lab
exploded or that this was a weather-related incident. These
theories were quickly ruled out, and investigators focused on
the possibility of a natural gas explosion.
home at the epicenter of these events was owned by Monserrate
Shirley, a nine-year resident of Richmond Hill. Her boyfriend
Mark Leonard also lived at the residence along with
Shirley's teenaged daughter and the family cat. No one
was home at the time of the explosion. Ultimately authorities
concluded natural gas was intentionally leaked into the
Shirley home through a modification of the fireplace and that
a delayed timing device was triggered which caused an
explosion equal in force to approximately three tons of TNT.
and Procedural History
both Leonard and Shirley denied any wrongdoing. Shirley later
agreed to cooperate with authorities. According to Shirley,
for several months Leonard had planned to destroy the house
by fire in a scheme to collect insurance money. At
Leonard's urging, Shirley increased the amount of
insurance coverage on the contents of the house from $160,
000 to $300, 000. Leonard then recruited a friend-Gary
Thompson-to help set the fire. On a previous occasion
Thompson had successfully started a fire in the home of
another friend for the purpose of collecting insurance money.
In a conversation at Shirley's house, Shirley overheard
Leonard and Thompson talking about the thermostat and heard
Thompson say they could use the fireplace to start the fire.
plan was to set the fire Saturday night, October 27, 2012. In
preparation, Shirley arranged a hotel room for herself and
Leonard at an out-of-town casino and arranged an overnight
babysitter for Shirley's daughter. She also boarded her
cat at a kennel. As it turned out, the fire did not occur
that night. Apparently, Thompson was not able to set it
because he had gotten pulled over by a police officer and
could not get into Shirley's house.
plan having failed, Leonard told Shirley it "ha[d] to be
done" and they were "going to do it again[.]"
Tr. at 3700. On the evening of November 1, 2012,
Leonard's brother Bob Leonard visited Shirley's home.
Leonard and Bob spoke and after Bob left Leonard told Shirley
that Bob was going to set a small fire so they could collect
the insurance money and that they would pay Bob $10, 000.
Leonard and Thompson cut a piece of cardboard and used it to
block the flue to the fireplace chimney so that gas coming
from the fireplace would stay in the house. The plan was for
a spark from the thermostat to ignite the gas from the
were made as before: boarding the cat; Shirley's daughter
spending the night with friends; and the couple waiting at
the casino. The fire was scheduled to occur on Saturday,
November 3, 2012. This plan did not work either. However,
when speaking on the phone to Mike Duckworth-his friend of
twenty years-Leonard told Duckworth that he had been on the
internet looking for a Ferrari. When Duckworth asked Leonard
how he could afford a Ferrari, anticipating a successful
fire, Leonard stated, "[t]sunami winds blew out the
fireplace and the house blew up. . . . And they were getting
300, 000 dollars." Tr. at 4164.
continued his efforts to destroy the house. He and Bob went
to a local library and researched a fire in a similar sized
home. The two also spoke to an employee of the gas company
about natural gas, how much it would take to fill up a house,
and what would happen to the house when it was full of gas.
The employee informed them that the house was "like a
balloon, and once it gets full, it's going to blow
up." Tr. at 4849.
Friday, November 9, 2012-for the third weekend in row-Shirley
again arranged for a room at the casino, a place for the cat
at a kennel, and a babysitter for her daughter. The following
evening Shirley and Leonard were seated at the bar inside the
casino when she received a telephone call telling her
something terrible had happened in her neighborhood and
asking if she and her daughter were all right. Shirley then
called a neighbor who informed Shirley that her house had
exploded and there was nothing left.
house was next door to the home of husband and wife Dion and
Jennifer Longworth. Their home was also destroyed in the
explosion. It was reduced from a two-story residence to a
seven-foot pile of rubble. Despite the best efforts of
firefighters and neighbors to rescue the couple neither
survived. Having been in the upstairs bedroom, Mrs. Longworth
died an "almost sudden death" from what the medical
examiner referred to as "blast injuries[, ]" which
means "extensive injury and change of pressure, causing
fractures of the skull, fractures of the inner ear, when you
have abrupt change of pressure . . . . " Tr. at 1784.
The autopsy report revealed Mrs. Longworth suffered
significant thermal injuries.
Longworth survived the initial blast but ended up trapped in
the basement of his house. He was alert, relatively
uninjured, and communicating with neighbors through a hole in
the house at ground level. However, the house was on fire.
Firefighters tried to pull Mr. Longworth out of the hole but
the fire kept getting closer to where they were working to
get him out. The heat became so intense that even wearing
protective gear firefighters had to back away. Mr. Longworth
sustained thermal injuries and charring over 90% of his body.
His ultimate cause of death was inhalation of hot gases and
soot, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Both Mr. and Mrs.
Longworth had to be identified through their dental records.
December 20, 2012, the State of Indiana charged Leonard,
Shirley, and Bob in a forty-nine count Information. The
charges were as follows: Counts I and II Murder, a felony;
Count III Conspiracy to Commit Arson as a Class A felony;
Count IV Conspiracy to Commit Arson as a Class B felony;
Counts V through XVI, Arson as Class A felonies; and Counts
XVII through XLIX Arson as Class B felonies. The State later
amended the charging Information by adding Count L-an
additional charge of Arson as a Class B felony; and Count LI
Conspiracy to Commit Insurance Fraud as a Class C felony.
Thereafter on February 11, 2013, alleging three aggravating
circumstances, the State filed a request seeking life without
parole for the murder charges.
discovery and pre-trial proceedings ensued. After several
delays, including a change of venue from Marion County, the
guilt phase of Leonard's jury trial began June 4, 2015
and concluded July 14, 2015, generating a twenty-two-volume
transcript and over eighteen hundred exhibits. Following the
guilt phase of trial the jury found Leonard guilty as charged
on all counts. Leonard had previously waived his right to
trial by jury for the penalty phase of the trial. Therefore,
the trial court conducted a hearing before the bench. It
found the State proved each of the three charged aggravating
factors beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial court also found
the State proved "beyond a reasonable doubt" that
the three aggravating circumstances "far outweigh the
mitigating circumstances considered." App. at 81. The
trial court thus imposed consecutive life without parole
sentences for the two murder convictions; and except for
Counts IV and V the trial court imposed an aggregate
sentence of 75 years on the remaining counts to be served
consecutively to the LWOP sentences. This appeal proceeded in
due course. Pursuant to Appellate Rule 9(A)(1)(a) the Court
has mandatory and exclusive jurisdiction over this appeal.
Additional facts are set forth below.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
contends the evidence is not sufficient to sustain the murder
convictions. More specifically he argues: (1) the State
failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly
killed Dion and Jennifer Longworth; and (2) the State failed
to prove the knowing element as to these specific victims.
"In reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, we do
not reweigh the evidence or assess the credibility of
witnesses." Soward v. State, 716 N.E.2d 423,
425 (Ind. 1999). Rather, we look to the evidence and
reasonable inferences drawn therefrom that support the
verdict, and we will affirm the convictions if there is
probative evidence from which a reasonable jury could have
found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Kelly v. State, 719 N.E.2d 391, 394 (Ind. 1999).
charged, the State had the burden of proving Leonard
knowingly killed Dion and/or Jennifer Longworth. To sustain a
verdict, the evidence must show the defendant "was aware
of a high probability that someone's death would result
from his actions. Because knowledge is the mental state of
the actor, the trier of fact must resort to reasonable
inferences of its existence." Young v. State,
761 N.E.2d 387, 389 (Ind. 2002).
record shows the Longworths had lived next door to Shirley
since 2003 when her house was first built. The jury could
reasonably infer from the circumstances Leonard knew of the
proximity between the two homes and that he knew the home
next door was occupied, since he had lived with Shirley off
and on for eleven months at the time of the explosion. Soon
after Leonard moved in with Shirley he began asking about her
insurance coverage and then began planning the scheme to
defraud the insurance company by damaging the house. Leonard
gained Shirley's consent and he recruited others to help
ensure they would collect the full $300, 000 from the
insurance company. Leonard and accomplices attempted
unsuccessfully multiple times to destroy the home. After each
failure, they increased their efforts to better ensure
success. By the time the explosion happened on November 10,
the fireplace gas valve and regulator had been reconfigured
so gas would flow into the home unimpeded, the chimney was
blocked to prevent gas from escaping, the digital thermostat
was removed and replaced with a less sophisticated version,
and gasoline was poured on the floors in the home. In the
library, Leonard ...