NSP identifies Laurel homicide victims, says suspect airlifted to Lincoln to treat burns
Arrest made across the street from where four people were found dead in two burning homes
LAUREL, Neb. (WOWT) - The Nebraska State Patrol on Friday shared the names of the four people killed Thursday in a small northeastern Nebraska town and confirmed that a suspect in the homicides had been arrested.
Michele Ebeling, 53, was found dead in the first home authorities responded to early Thursday morning. Gene Twiford, 86, Janet Twiford, 85, and Dana Twiford, 55, were found dead — and had been shot — in the second home.
NSP Col. John Bolduc said during a Friday morning news conference that Jason A. Jones, 42, had been arrested in a Laurel home — across the street from the two homes where four people were found dead a day earlier.
“He has not been booked yet because he is in the hospital,” Bolduc said.
Upon his arrest, Jones was found to have serious burns over a large part of his body and was airlifted to a hospital in Lincoln, Bolduc said, adding that the suspect is believed to be in serious condition.
Earlier on Friday, sister station KTIV reported that law enforcement swarmed a house near the two crime scenes in the small town, and that police could be heard over a loudspeaker telling someone that they had a warrant for their arrest and that they should come out unarmed.
While he said he wasn’t at the scene Friday morning, Bolduc said during the news conference that no gunfire was exchanged but noted that flash-bangs are often used as a diversionary tactic when trying to arrest a dangerous suspect.
“The suspect was taken into custody without any violence,” Bolduc said, adding that authorities believe “there is no more danger to the Laurel community or northeast Nebraska as a result of this arrest.”
Members of the Laurel community told 6 News on Thursday that they were worried after hearing about the multiple deaths.
The crime scenes were first discovered about 3 a.m. Thursday when there was a call for a house fire. Firefighters discovered a body inside, according to NSP. Soon, another house fire was called three blocks away; three more bodies were found inside that house.
Police were given a vague description of a man in the area who had been seen leaving town in a car after possibly picking someone up.
During the news conference, Bolduc spoke about the grief the town is experiencing as well as the betrayal that a community member among them is believed to have committed the crimes. He also praised the “heroic efforts” of firefighters, who had to adjust their tactics to extinguish the fires while also protecting the viability of the evidence at the crime scene.
“Their efforts preserved the evidence that led us directly to the suspect. ... Evidence from both scenes led us to the suspect, and that’s why he is in custody at this time,” Bolduc said.
While he couldn’t rule out any further suspects who might be associated with the case, Bolduc emphasized that authorities were confident the community was safe now that Jones was in custody.
Bolduc said the suspect authorities were looking for, who had been reported leaving town in a silver vehicle after the killings, became less significant as investigators were able to process the scenes and collect more evidence.
“But we would like to talk to that person as a witness if we are able to identify them,” he said.
Bolduc also talked about the many responders and agencies assisting at the scenes and during the ongoing investigation, noting that many are members of the Laurel community, making their work especially difficult.
A release from NSP on Friday morning listed the other agencies that have been involved: volunteer fire departments from Laurel, Wayne, and Beldon; the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Cedar County Attorney, the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, the Laurel Police Department, the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office.
Watch Friday morning’s news conference
This is a developing story. Stay with 6 News for updates.
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