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Nebraska police arrest a suspect linked to 4 deaths in burning homes

Margery A. Beck
A small memorial sits outside the home of Gene Twiford, 86, Janet Twiford, 85, and Dana Twiford, 55, on Friday in Laurel, Neb. They were among four people found dead Thursday in two burning homes in this small community in northeastern Nebraska, authorities said.

Updated August 5, 2022 at 3:58 PM ET

LAUREL, Neb. — Police investigating the killings of four people in a small northeast Nebraska city have arrested a neighbor of the victims, the Nebraska State Patrol said Friday.

A police team surrounded and then entered a home in Laurel about 2:30 a.m. Friday after gathering evidence at two burned houses where the four bodies were found Thursday morning.

The Nebraska State Patrol arrested Jason A. Jones, 42, of Laurel on suspicion of homicide. He had been badly burned and was flown to a hospital in Lincoln so has not been formally charged, Nebraska State Patrol Col. John Bolduc said at a news conference.

Bolduc said Jones lives across the street from one of the burned homes.

Those killed were identified as Gene Twiford, 86, Janet Twiford, 85, and Dana Twiford, 55, who all lived in one house. The victim in the other house was identified as 53-year-old Michele Ebeling. Jones lived across the street from Ebeling and within three blocks of the Twiford home, Bolduc said.

Bolduc declined to give a suspected motive for the arrest or to say if Jones knew those who were killed.

Bolduc said officers used flash explosions as a distraction during the arrest but that Jones was arrested "without any violence." There are no more suspects but Bolduc said it was too early in the investigation to know if there would be any other arrests.

Riley Tolan-Keig / The Norfolk Daily News via AP
The Norfolk Daily News via AP
Barricades block off a portion of Elm Street in Laurel, Neb., Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating a situation with multiple fatalities that occurred in Laurel on Thursday morning.

Victim autopsies were scheduled for Friday.

The arrest came a day after the discovery of the bodies in the two burning homes in the city about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Omaha.

The body of one person was found after firefighters were called to an explosion and fire. A short time later, firefighters were called to another home nearby and found the bodies of three people inside.

After examining both burned-out homes, the state patrol said that "gunfire played a part in the incident at both homes" and that both fires had started just after 3 a.m. Thursday.

On Thursday, Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda was asked if the community was safe, prompting him to say residents "need to be diligent" and report anything out of the ordinary to police.

On Friday, Bolduc said, "We believe the community is safe with this person in custody."

When the bodies were discovered, Laurel police recommended that the community go on a voluntary lockdown, prompting most businesses, a senior center and schools to limit access for part of the day.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press