FORT WAYNE, Indiana — An attorney for a man accused of murder and arson in a house explosion that killed two people urged jurors to keep an open mind despite emotional testimony they will hear during the trial expected to last more than a month.
"You are going to hear and see things you probably never thought you'd hear and think about in your life. But your verdict can't be based on emotion," said Ted Minch, attorney for Bob Leonard.
Leonard is charged with murder, arson, conspiracy and other charges in an Indianapolis house explosion in November 2012 that killed Jennifer and John "Dion" Longworth. His half-brother, Mark Leonard, was convicted on the same 53 charges Bob Leonard faces and was sentenced in August to life in prison without parole.
Minch told jurors that they will here from people whose homes were destroyed and said describing what they saw as a "war zone probably doesn't do it justice."
But he told jurors that his client isn't to blame.
"Bob Leonard is not responsible for the acts you're going to have to hear about," Minch said.
Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson told jurors the state won't allege that Bob Leonard intended to kill anyone, but that the he should have known his actions had "a high probability of doing so."
She told jurors that more than 150 people are expected to testify during the trial. She said testimony will show the explosion was not an accident.
"This is an intentionally set explosion and you will hear why," she said.
Prosecutors say the blast was part of a plot to trigger a natural gas explosion at Mark Leonard's then-girlfriend's home to collect $300,000 in insurance.
Prosecutors also say Bob Leonard's DNA was found on the front door of that home, and on a white van that was seen at the home before the explosion.
Testimony began Thursday afternoon with Marion County Sheriff's Department employee Ada Townsend saying that the Indianapolis 911 received 274 calls on the night the house exploded. Jurors heard recordings of portions of some of those panicked calls.
The trial was moved to Fort Wayne because of pretrial media attention in central Indiana. Mark Leonard's trial was held in South Bend.