Prosecutor: 4th Indianapolis house explosion suspect was considered before co-defendant talked

Investigators had been suspicious of the man charged this week with murder and arson in the deadly 2012 Indianapolis house explosion before a co-defendant implicated him, a prosecutor said Friday.

Monserrate Shirley, whose home exploded in November 2012, provided investigators with information that helped support the charges Gary Thompson now faces.

"He had been someone that we have been looking at anyway," Deputy Prosecutor Robinson said after Thompson's initial court appearance Friday. "She (Shirley) narrowed the field."

Marion Superior Court Judge Sheila Carlisle entered a plea of not guilty for Thompson on 34 of counts of arson, 12 counts of arson resulting in bodily injury, one count of conspiracy to commit arson and two counts of murder.

Carlisle also appointed public defender Heather Barton to the case after Thompson said he hasn't worked since 2008, has no property or vehicles in his name, lives in a mobile home owned by his parents and is financially supported by his live-in girlfriend.

Carlisle granted Barton's request that Thompson be held separately from two other men charged in the case — Shirley's former boyfriend, Mark Leonard, and his brother, Bob Leonard. They and Shirley face similar charges.

Prosecutors have described Thompson as a longtime associate of Mark Leonard, who faces a June trial in South Bend.

Thompson is being held in the Marion County Jail without bond.

Neither Thompson nor Barton spoke to reporters following the hearing.

Prosecutor Terry Curry said Thursday that Thompson has denied any involvement in the explosion that killed Shirley's next-door neighbors, John "Dion" and Jennifer Longworth, and injured 13 other residents of the Richmond Hill subdivision on the city's south side. More than 80 homes were damaged in the blast as well, several of which had to be razed.

Shirley has entered into a plea agreement in which she says she'll cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy and possibly escaping additional jail time. A judge has not yet ruled on the agreement.

Prosecutors have said the explosion was a scheme to collect $300,000 in insurance and occurred when the home filled up with gas after a fireplace valve and a gas line regulator were removed. A microwave, apparently set to start on a timer, sparked the blast.