Angry family members of victims attend hearing for 3 charged in house explosion

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Associated Press

Posted on December 24, 2012 at 7:00 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Family members of an Indianapolis couple who died in a gas explosion, and residents whose homes were battered by the blast, have attended a court hearing for three people charged with rigging the explosion.

A judge today entered not guilty pleas for Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend and his brother. They are charged with murder, arson and other counts.

Prosecutors say they rigged Shirley's home to blow up by filling it with natural gas, and that they did so to collect the insurance payout. The blast destroyed Shirley's home and five others, killing two next-door neighbors.

Shirley and her boyfriend have said they were at a southern Indiana casino at the time of the blast.

An aunt of one of the people who died says it's "unbelievable" that "someone could be gambling and drinking while their house blows up and people are dying." She says she "cannot forgive that."

Court documents say Shirley had been facing financial problems, including $63,000 in credit card debt and bankruptcy proceedings.

A trial for all three suspects is set for March. The prosecutor has said he will consider seeking the death penalty.

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APPHOTO NY142: This undated photo provided by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department shows Monserrate Shirley, of Indianapolis. Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard, and his brother, Bob Leonard, were arrested Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 and charged with murder, arson and other counts in a Nov. 10 gas explosion that killed two people. Authorities say the explosion in the Richmond hill subdivision in Indianapolis was deliberately set up so the three could collect a big insurance payout. (AP Photo/Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department) (21 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO NY142 (12/21/12)>>

APPHOTO NY144: This combo made from photos provided by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department shows from left, Mark Leonard, his girlfriend Monserrate Shirley, and his brother, Bob Leonard, all of Indianapolis, who were arrested Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 and charged with murder, arson and other counts in a Nov. 10 gas explosion that killed two people. Authorities say the explosion in the Richmond hill subdivision in Indianapolis was deliberately set up so the three could collect a big insurance payout. (AP Photo/Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department) (21 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO NY144 (12/21/12)>>

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