Prosecutor: Indianapolis blast not accidental

Posted: 11/20/12 at 6:20 am EST      Last Updated: 11/20/12 at 5:32 pm EST

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The house explosion in Indianapolis that killed two people and left a neighborhood in ruins was not an accident, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry told The Associated Press that city arson investigators and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had concluded the Nov. 10 blast, which also destroyed five homes and damaged dozens more, was not an accident.

Officials announced Monday that the probe was a criminal homicide investigation, but did not explicitly say accidental causes had been ruled out. They also said Monday that search warrants had been executed.

Curry said Tuesday additional search warrants had been issued by local judges and not all had been executed. He declined to discuss details of the investigation or the search warrants, which he said would remain sealed until -- or if -- any criminal charges are filed.

If the warrants became public at this point, Curry said "it would jeopardize the ongoing investigation."

Officials say they believe natural gas was involved in the explosion, and are focusing on appliances as the cause. The explosion caused an estimated $4.4 million in damage.

Curry said investigators had considered homicide a possibility all along, but it wasn't until police and the ATF ruled out an accidental cause that it became a criminal probe.

He declined to say whether investigators had any suspects or if there was any physical evidence or possible motive that the blast had been deliberately set.

"In terms of any intent, I can't speak to that," Curry said.

He said there was no timeline for the investigation, and it was possible that no charges would be filed.

A lawyer representing Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard, who lived in the home that investigators believe exploded, said Tuesday that the couple was bewildered by the investigation's new direction.

Randall Cable said in a statement that Shirley and Leonard have "cooperated fully" with investigators and that they want the cause "of this horrific and saddening tragedy to be determined."

Fire Capt. Rita Burris said Tuesday that about 15 heavily damaged homes are "on hold," meaning that residents have limited access because of the investigation.

Once the on-scene work is complete, she said inspectors will have to determine if those homes are safe enough to enter or if they must be demolished.

"That's a two-fold, two-layer thing that these homeowners are going to have to deal with," Burris said.

On Monday, hundreds of people attended the funeral for John Dion Longworth, 34, and his 36-year-old wife Jennifer Longworth, who died in the explosion. They lived next door to the home that investigators believe exploded.

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