By NEBRASKA STATE PATROL
The Nebraska State Patrol has arrested a suspect in connection with four homicides that occurred in Laurel early Thursday morning. The investigation included two scenes on Elm Street in Laurel. Each scene included a residence with a fire.
Once fire suppression efforts were complete at a residence at 503 Elm Street, NSP Crime Scene Investigators were able to examine the scene. Investigators located three deceased victims at that location, each with suspected gunshot wounds. The victims have been identified as Gene Twiford, 86, Janet Twiford, 85, and Dana Twiford, 55. All three were residents of the home.
One deceased victim was located at 209 Elm Street, also with suspected gunshot wounds. That victim has been identified as Michele Ebeling, 53. She was a resident at that home.
Physical evidence located at both scenes led investigators to identify a suspect as Jason Jones, 42, who is a resident of Laurel. Investigators developed information to believe that Jones was inside his home at 206 Elm Street in Laurel. The NSP SWAT Team was activated, and an arrest warrant was obtained for Jones. Following repeated attempts to have Jones exit the home voluntarily, the SWAT Team made entry into the home and located Jones in a bedroom, with severe burns.
Jones was flown to St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Lincoln for treatment of his burn injuries. He is in custody at the hospital.
The investigation remains ongoing. Several agencies have been involved in the response and investigation, including the volunteer fire departments of Laurel, Wayne, and Beldon, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Cedar County Attorney, the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, as well as the Laurel Police Department, Cedar County Sheriff’s Office, and the Nebraska State Patrol.
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UPDATE 8/5/22 7:10 a.m.
The Nebraska State Patrol said an arrest has been made in connection to the four homicides in Laurel. A news conference will be held later this morning to release additional information.
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UPDATE 8/5/22 4:25 a.m.
The Nebraska State Patrol can release new information and urges public vigilance as the investigation into four deaths in Laurel continues.
After fire suppression efforts were successful this afternoon at the scene in the 500 block of Elm Street in Laurel, investigators have been able to examine the crime scene and now identify that gunfire is suspected of having played a part in the incidents at both homes. Fire investigators also believe that the fire in the 500 block of Elm Street may have started around the same time as the reported explosion in the 200 block of Elm Street. However, indications of that fire weren’t visible outside the home for hours. Both incidents are now believed to have occurred shortly after 3:00 a.m. Thursday.
Based on that time frame, NSP is requesting anyone that may have seen anything out-of-the-ordinary in Laurel between midnight and 4:00 a.m. to report it immediately. Tips can be reported to 402-479-4921.
Additionally, based on this focused time frame of the fires, investigators now believe the previously sought silver sedan reported by a member of the public may have left Laurel much later after the incidents than previously thought.
The Nebraska State Patrol, Cedar County Sheriff’s Office, and Laurel Police Department urge vigilance for members of the Laurel and nearby communities. Anyone who sees out-of-the-ordinary activity should call 911 immediately.
This is an active investigation. Additional details will be released when possible.
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By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Four people were found dead Thursday in two burning homes in a small community in northeastern Nebraska, authorities said.
Nebraska State Patrol Col. John Bolduc said at a news conference that a man was seen driving away from the city of Laurel before the bodies were discovered and that investigators would like to speak to him.
Firefighters responding to a call Thursday morning about an explosion and fire at one of the homes found the body of a person inside, Bolduc said.
A short time later, firefighters were called to a second burning home a few blocks away, where the bodies of three people were found inside.
Authorities didn't release the names of the dead or say how they died, but they said witnesses reported seeing a man leaving Laurel in a silver car. Bolduc referred to the man as a suspect in the deaths and said he may have picked up a passenger on the way out of town.
Investigators believe whoever set the fires may have suffered burns, Bolduc added.
He would not say how or whether the victims were related and declined to speculate on the circumstances leading to the killings.
“We’re not categorizing it as anything right now,” Bolduc said.
Laurel is home to fewer than 1,000 people and is located about 100 miles northwest of Omaha.
“Laurel is a very safe community,” said Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda. “It shakes everybody up.”
Most businesses, a senior center and schools in the community voluntarily went on lockdown around the time the bodies were discovered. That came at the recommendation of the city's lone police officer, said Lori Hansen, a clerical assistant at the Laurel City Hall. But even community officials were scrambling for information about what was unfolding in the normally quiet town, she said.
“We’ve been listening to TV to try to find out what’s going on,” Hansen said.