‘This doesn’t happen here’: Rural Nebraska community reacts after 4 found dead on same block

Residents worry they won’t feel safe until arrests made, more known about the crimes
Investigators say gunfire is suspected to have played a part in the Laurel, Nebraska incident that took four lives Thursday.
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
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LAUREL, Neb. (WOWT) - Members of this small town told 6 News on Thursday that they were worried after four people were found dead overnight in separate homes on the same street.

“This doesn’t happen here,” says Cathryn Newton, who lives just a few houses down from one of the homes involved. “It’s unheard of out here to even have this much presence let alone something so bad happening.”

The commotion in the town of just 1,000 residents began early Thursday morning.

“We heard the fire alarm in the morning and I assumed a fire, that’s usually what it is,” Kay Paulson told 6 News.

Officials said neighbors reported hearing an explosion at a home on Elm Street around 3 a.m. and found one person dead inside.

While officials responded to the home, neighbors reported another fire at another home just three blocks away. Police said Thursday night that investigators now believe the fires at both homes were started around the same time but weren’t visible until hours later.

The Nebraska State Patrol also said in an updated news release Thursday night that gunfire was involved in both incidents.

Three people were found dead in the second home; neighbors told 6 News it was a family of three.

“The community just kind of gotta swallow that pill ‘cause he’s so well known here,” Newton said. “Like, everyone knew him, it’s going to affect everybody.”

“My heart kinda dropped, cause you know, you know them so well,” Paulson says.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in our community,” says Scott Taylor, who said he was born and raised in Laurel. Scott owns several businesses in Laurel and spent his afternoon delivering food to first responders.

“If you wanna see what a small town does, drive around this town, and you’ll see everyone saying prayers for the families involved, you’ll see everybody wanting to know what can we do to help,” Taylor said.

Police are still investigating, but have said that accelerants may have been used to ignite the fires in both homes. They said potential suspects may have also been burned.

With so much confusion and uncertainty, neighbors told 6 News it’s a nerve-wracking time for the Laurel community.

“Of course, it scares you because the cops are like your family, the fireman is all like your family, they’re all friends, your kids live here, with us owning the businesses, we worry about all of our staff,” Taylor said.

“I was scared,” says 8-year-old Aleeyah, who was visiting Paulson, her great-grandmother, in Laurel for the week.

“Until they figure out what happened, or who, I don’t think anyone is going to feel safe here,” Newton said.

CAN YOU HELP? The Nebraska State Patrol urged anyone who may have seen anything out of the ordinary in Laurel between midnight and 4 a.m. to contact them at 402-497-4921.

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