SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Two men testified Monday about their unsuccessful efforts to rescue a man trapped in his Indianapolis basement after his house was rocked by an explosion at a neighbor's home in what defense attorneys have said was an insurance fraud plan gone awry.
Bryan Hollingsworth testified during the trial for 46-year-old Mark Leonard, who is charged with murder, arson, conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud in the explosion that killed John "Dion" Longworth and his wife, Jennifer. Leonard, his then-live-in girlfriend Monserrate Shirley and his half brother Bob Leonard are accused of blowing up the house to collect $300,000 in insurance. Two others also face charges.
Hollingsworth said he was awakened by the blast shortly after 11 p.m. in November 2012 and went outside to find that the Longworths' two-story home now looked like a one-story home in "disarray." As he approached, he said he heard Dion Longworth saying, "I'm in here and I'm trapped."
Stephen Pridemore said Hollingsworth called him over and he could see a bloody Longworth through a hole. Pridemore ran to get help, while Hollingsworth waited with Longworth.
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.
"I said, 'Stay with me,'" Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth tried to tear away drywall with his hands to make the basketball-sized opening bigger but couldn't. He said he was alone with Longworth for three or four minutes.
"It was very quiet. I could hear fire. I could hear faint screaming," he said.
Finally, a firefighter came running in and he yelled into his radio, "Entrapment! Entrapment! We need water now," Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth said Longworth asked: "Are you going to be able to help me?"
Behind Longworth's head he could see the glow of fire. The firefighter told Hollingsworth to leave.
"When I looked back, the Longworth house was fully engulfed," he said.
Defense lawyers have tried to shift blame to Shirley, who has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit arson and to testify against the others.
Richmond Hill neighborhood resident Edgar Salas testified that Shirley had called his wife about 15 minutes after the explosion but was incoherent. Salas said his wife handed him the phone because she thought Shirley was speaking Spanish.
"She wasn't speaking Spanish, and she wasn't speaking English either," Salas testified.
He said Shirley was crying and hysterical. He testified he told her that he was happy she was safe and that she should return to the neighborhood as soon as she could. She and Mark Leonard had left town.
Salas initially told defense attorney Diane Black that he didn't remember saying people already were pointing fingers at Shirley several days after the explosion. He later said he recalled the comment after reading his previous deposition, saying that came from a conversation with his wife.
Before testimony began Monday, St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge John Marnocha denied a defense motion for a continuation in the trial because it had been informed by the prosecution that an expert witness for the prosecution had made a mistake in calculations of gas flow into the house.