Jail informant testifies that Indianapolis house explosion suspect wanted witness killed

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SOUTH BEND, Indiana — A man accused of causing a 2012 house explosion that killed an Indianapolis couple and heavily damaged a neighborhood tried to hire someone to kill a trial witness while in jail, an informant testified Thursday.

Robert Smith said Mark Leonard told him about the explosion while they were outside of their cells and asked about hiring someone to kill a witness.

"He just wanted him killed and he was willing to pay a fee for that. I told him I couldn't do it but I'd find somebody that could," Smith testified.

Leonard faces murder, arson and other charges in the November 2012 explosion that killed John and Jennifer Longworth and damaged or destroyed about 80 homes in the Richmond Hill neighborhood. Prosecutors say he plotted the explosion at the home of his then-girlfriend, Monserrate Shirley, to collect about $300,000 in insurance proceeds.

Shirley testified against Leonard on Wednesday as part of a plea deal. Leonard's brother, Bob Leonard, and two other men also are charged in the case.

During testimony Thursday, Smith showed jurors a signed paper from Mark Leonard in which he said he'd pay Smith for arranging the hit man 180 days after Leonard's release from jail, WISH-TV reported (http://bit.ly/1UdCOdM ) that during testimony.

Defense attorneys had asked Judge John Marnocha to exclude Smith's testimony. Attorney David Shircliff said Smith was passing medications to Leonard on a daily basis while in jail and that those medications had a negative impact on Leonard's ability to understand what he was doing.

Smith denied giving medications to Leonard, and Marnocha said Leonard seemed "oriented" in recorded conversations with Smith.

"I don't see any reason at this point in time to interrupt things or to exclude his testimony just because he may or may not be lying," the judge said.

Information from: WISH-TV, http://www.wishtv.com/

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