(CNN) -- The explosion that killed two people and hurt seven in an Indianapolis subdivision is now the subject of a homicide probe, authorities announced Monday.
Police want to know about a white van seen in the neighborhood before the November 10 blast that leveled several homes, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said. Neither Curry nor other investigators released any more details on the matter, saying only that a "parallel investigation" had been going on while they were trying to figure out the cause of the explosion.
"At this point, we are here to inform you that we are turning this into a criminal homicide investigation," Gary Coons, the city's homeland security chief, told reporters. The officials took no questions after the Monday evening announcement but asked the public to come forward with any information about the van and its occupants.
The news came the same day that the couple killed in the blast, John Dion Longworth and Jennifer Longworth, were buried. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said he attended the funeral Mass, and "I could not even imagine what the families are going through."
"But there is a secular side to this," Ballard said. "There is a search for truth, and there is a search for justice."
The late-night blast destroyed several homes and severely damaged more than 30, investigators said. At one point, 60 to 70 firefighters fought the resulting fires.
The local Crime Stoppers organization has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has offered $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction, Curry said.
Indianapolis explosion now a homicide probe, officials say - CNN.com
Part of an article from The Chicago Tribune:
Officials have said they believe natural gas was involved in the explosion, which destroyed five homes and left dozens damaged, some heavily. Investigators have been focusing on appliances as they search for a cause of the explosion, which caused an estimated $4.4 million in damage.
“We thought something like this was not just an accident,” said Doug Aldridge, who heads the neighborhood Crime Watch.
Aldridge said he and other residents frequently saw a white van parked outside the home, though he didn't know who owned it. He said residents were angry and upset, but he expects most of them to stay in the neighborhood.
“It's surprising that it finally came to that. Everyone had their suspicions,” Chris Sutton, who lives a street away from the blast site, said after attending Monday night's meeting.
“It's kind of scary that someone might set off a gas explosion,” he added. “It's really scary.”
Hundreds of people attended the funerals earlier Monday for the couple killed in the explosion, 34-year-old John Dion Longworth and 36-year-old Jennifer Longworth. She was a teacher remembered for knitting gifts for her students, while her husband, an electronics expert, was known as a gardener and nature lover.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard spoke at the news conference and said he went to the Longworths' funeral and had a hard time coming to peace with what had happened.
“There is a search for truth and there is a search for justice,” Ballard said.
The couple lived next door to the house where investigators are focusing. The co-owner of that house, John Shirley, told The Associated Press he had received a text message from his daughter recently saying the furnace in the home, which she shares with her mother and her mother's boyfriend, had gone out.
Shirley's ex-wife, Monserrate Shirley, said her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, had replaced the thermostat recently and the furnace had resumed working.
The couple was away at a casino at the time of the blast. The daughter was staying with a friend, and the family's cat was being boarded.
Monserrate Shirley's attorney, Randall Cable, declined comment on the announcement Monday evening.
Indianapolis explosion: Fatal Indianapolis explosion, fire now a homicide investigation - chicagotribune.com