LAUREL, Neb. (TCD) -- A man was taken into custody after four people were killed during two separate fires in a small town in the northeast part of the state.
According to Nebraska State Patrol, shortly after 3 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4, the Laurel Fire Department responded to a fire at the 200 block of Elm Street and found a deceased person inside the home. Officials from the Laurel Police Department and Cedar County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene and called the Nebraska State Patrol for assistance.
While officials were at the first residence, there was another fire reported on the 500 block of Elm Street. Firefighters and police went to the scene and discovered three deceased individuals inside the home.
In a follow-up statement, Nebraska State Patrol said gunfire "is suspected to have played a part in the incidents at both homes." The fires, however, were reportedly not visible from outside the residences "for hours" and investigators believed the blazes started before 3 a.m.
In Friday, Aug. 5, Nebraska State Patrol Col. John Bolduc announced 42-year-old Jason Jones was arrested on suspicion of homicide. According to Bolduc, Jones reportedly lived across the street from the first house set on fire. Nebraska State Patrol SWAT teams entered Jones' home in the early hours of Aug. 5 and found Jones inside. He reportedly suffered "serious burns on a large part of his body," and he was airlifted to a hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he remains in serious condition.
The victim in the 200 block of Elm Street was identified as 53-year-old Michele Ebeling. The victims in the 500 block fire are 85-year-old Janet Twiford, 86-year-old Gene Twiford, and 55-year-old Dana Twiford. The three Twifords reportedly all lived in the same home.
According to KTIV-TV, Jones has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree arson, and four counts of use of a firearm to commit a felony.
The Associated Press reports less than 1,000 people live in Laurel, which is about 100 miles from Omaha. Bolduc said the community of Laurel was suffering "indescribable grief" and that feeling will be "compounded by the betrayal of trust that they are going to feel because a community member here is alleged to have committed these crimes."