Mark Leonard’s sister tells jury Leonard told her he’d won $250K

Mark Leonard is walked into a courtroom. (WISH Photo)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WISH) – Jurors in the Richmond Hill trial heard from Mark Leonard’s sister, who says she received a text from Leonard the night of the explosion about winning money.

Indiana Gaming Commission agents told the jury Mark Leonard never won money at the casino that night: in fact, he lost money.

Tammy Leonard Durham told jurors Tuesday morning that she’d received a text that night from her brother, saying, “He was at the casino, he had won a large amount of money, and wanted to know if he could send a limo, to get me and boyfriend to come and hang out with them…”

She said at first, she said no because she had her kids.

But then she said her boyfriend at the time wanted to text him back, and call his bluff. She said they didn’t believe he was going to send a limo, so they said sure, send it, and said Leonard “texted back to say he might be getting a plane or jet to fly to Las Vegas with a doctor friend they had met.”

Durham said Leonard told her he’d won $250,000.

Durham didn’t look at Mark Leonard, and was soft spoken. She told the defense at one point, when attorney David Shircliff was asking her about the text, how it wasn’t saved anywhere, and asking her if police had asked her to take a picture of that text message, that she didn’t want to be there [in court].

“That’s the whole reason I was forced to be here today,” she said, explaining she didn’t want to be there. “Because I have that knowledge… Here I am.”

The defense wanted to keep the testimony about the text out of the trial, because the text was not preserved and Durham said the phone has since been destroyed. Defense attorney David Shircliff told the judge there is no way to verify that.

The judge said he would allow jurors to hear from Durham. He essentially equated it to a conversation with another person that was never recorded, and said “I have to be satisfied there is a reasonable basis the testimony is what it is purported to be.”

An agent with the Indiana Gaming Commission later told jurors Mark Leonard didn’t win at all that night. He said Leonard gambled for about nine minutes that day. He said he bought in for $100, lost his $100 … And that was it.”

Tammy Leonard Durham also told jurors she’d felt the explosion because she was eating on Southport Road about a mile from the explosion. She said, “It felt like a big truck hit the building.”

“People thought it was the end of the world, white stuff falling from the sky… It was awful.”

Prosecutors also asked her about going to Monserrate Shirley’s home. She said she had been there in the past for holidays.

She said she’d seen a Cadillac in the garage there, and it was not drivable.

She also told jurors that Mark and Monserrate’s relationship didn’t seem to be loving. She told jurors she felt Monserrate was “overly in love with him.”

Testimony from casino employees, Indiana Gaming Commission

Jurors also heard from Indiana Gaming Commission agents, who oversaw the investigation at the casino. They said Mark Leonard and Monserrate Shirley spent about 11 to 11.5 hours at the casino the day of the explosion. They said Shirley gambled about three minutes out of all of that, and Leonard gambled at the blackjack table, losing $100 for about nine minutes.

The jury also saw that they were on surveillance video the whole time, beginning at 12:30 p.m. when the couple walked in on Nov. 10, 2012, and leaving after Shirley was on the phone for awhile just after midnight.

Jurors heard from a surveillance manager at the casino who pulled the nearly 12 hours of video from Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard’s movements that day.

They heard from the database marketing manager at the Hollywood Casino, who said according to Mark Leonard’s ‘player card’ he’d played blackjack for 575 seconds that day. She said he lost $100.

The jury also heard from the hotel manager, who keeps guest history records.  He said Mark Leonard had reserved a stay sometime the weekend of Nov. 9, 2012, Nov. 3, 2012, and the weekend of Oct. 27, 2012 – three consecutive weekends.

He also said Leonard did not stay at the hotel the night of the explosion.

Boarding the cat 

Jurors also heard from the hospital manager at the VCA Sugar Grove vet hospital, who said she keeps records for each pet they have. She said they had records that the weekend of Oct. 26-29, a Moncie Shirley boarded a cat named Snowball.

Then, the owner of Arbor Lane Kennels came in and told jurors they’d boarded Snowball from Nov. 3-5, 2012.

The owner said Monserrate Shirley had come in on a Saturday and asked to groom Snowball, but the owner said they had no availability.

She said it was after the explosion that Monserrate came back in and wanted a copy of the receipt, and wanted her to write on it, talking about how they’d discussed the grooming.

They also heard from the manager at Barkefeller’s, another animal boarding location. He said they’d taken a deposit for a reservation to board Snowball from Nov. 9-12. He said Snowball ended up staying Nov. 9-15.

Prosecutors said in the probable cause that Snowball had never been boarded at those places before. They are using this evidence to prove Leonard and Shirley had previously attempted the explosion in the weeks before it occurred.

Financial situation, real estate 

Jurors then heard from a real estate agent who listed Monserrate Shirley’s home at 8349 Fieldfare Way in March of 2011.

She told jurors she was working to sell it on a short sale, working with the seller’s lender to get them to agree to take less than what the property is worth. There were two mortgages on the home.

Although she received an offer on the home and was working to negotiate, she said Shirley contacted her and wanted to withdraw the listing, so the home was taken off the market at end of 2011.

Jurors later heard from a forensic auditor with the ATF. Alan Strange told jurors after looking over Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard’s financial records leading up to the date of the explosion, he found they both were experiencing financial difficulties.

He said her bankruptcy filing had been dismissed, and the two were in debt nearly $300,000.

Prosecutors are working to show jurors that is a motive for the plot to collect insurance money. They say Shirley raised the personal property insurance on her home before the explosion to $300,000.

Monserrate Shirley

Monserrate Shirley is expected to testify Wednesday. Shirley was charged in connection to the deadly explosion at the same time as Mark Leonard and his half brother Bob.

She faced more than 50 counts as well, until in January of this year, when she agreed to plead guilty to two counts of felony conspiracy to commit arson.
To finalize the agreement, she must provide new evidence and testify against both Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard, and possibly the fourth suspect charged in the case, Gary Thompson.
You’ll remember, in the days after the explosion, she gave a tearful interview to 24-Hour News 8, maintaining her innocence.
In exchange for the plea deal, she gave inside information about the plot to collect insurance money, and the attempts prosecutors say they made to spark the explosion in the weeks before November 10. Prosecutors have also said interviews with Shirley under the agreement helped lead to Thompson’s arrest.

We also learned more about the timeline of the trial. The prosecution said they’d rest their case next week, sometime between the July 7 and July 9, and the defense said they’d take about a day or so to present their witness testimony.

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