Neighbor charged with 10 felonies in connection to four murders in small Nebraska town | Crime-and-courts

The 42-year-old man suspected of murdering four of his neighbors in the small town of Laurel in northeastern Nebraska has been charged with ten felonies — including four first-degree murders — for his alleged role in the crimes that killed the 1,000 shake up the inhabitants of the city. residents about 40 minutes west of Sioux City, Iowa.

Investigators arrested Jason A. Jones, who has lived on Elm Street in Laurel since 2019, after a pair of receipts and a gun left at the site of two home fires on Thursday morning were linked to him, according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed. in Cedar County.

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According to the Nebraska State Patrol, authorities found the first of four bodies around 3 a.m. Thursday after responding to a reported explosion at 209 Elm St.

Michele Ebeling, a 53-year-old resident, was found dead from two gunshot wounds in the home, according to the patrol.

Another fire was reported three blocks away at about 9:30 a.m., according to court records, although Colonel John Bolduc, the state patrol superintendent, said the fires were believed to have started around the same time.

At the scene of the second fire, authorities found Gene Twiford, 86; his wife Janet Twiford, 85; and their daughter Dana Twiford, 55. All three lived in the home at 503 Elm St. and were found dead with obvious gunshot wounds, State Patrol Investigator Michael Henry said in the search warrant affidavit.

At Ebeling’s home, where authorities responded first, investigators found three receipts — including one for gas at the local Rath’s Mini Mart, another for a six-gallon gas canister at a Sioux City store. The credit card used for both purchases belongs to Jones, Henry said in the affidavit.

At the Twifords’ home, police found a Ruger .57-caliber handgun, a firearms magazine and a Molotov cocktail, Henry said. Investigators have determined that Jones is the registered owner of the gun. He had bought it in February 2021.

Security footage from the Mini Mart shows Jones filling two gas cylinders there around 8 p.m. Wednesday, Henry said in the affidavit.

Police arrested Jones, who lived across the street from Ebeling, at his home at about 2:30 a.m. Friday, Bolduc said during a morning press conference at the city’s fire station. No one else was in the house when Jones was arrested.

Bolduc said Jones suffered severe burns over “much of his body” when he was arrested, apparently as a result of the two fires in the victims’ homes. He was taken by helicopter to CHI St. Elizabeth in Lincoln, where he remains in serious condition.

State Patrol spokesman Cody Thomas said he is not aware of any previous contacts police allegedly had with Jones prior to his arrest Friday.

Prosecutors have formally indicted Jones on four counts of first-degree murder, along with two counts of first-degree arson and four counts of using a firearm to commit a felony.

A Cedar County judge appointed the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy to represent Jones. The commission’s chief attorney did not comment on Friday.

Any connection between the victims and Jones — other than their proximity along the tree-lined street — remains unclear. At Friday’s press conference, Bolduc declined to share a suspected motive.

“I want to acknowledge the indescribable sadness this community is experiencing right now,” Bolduc said.

“And that is compounded by the betrayal of trust they will feel because a member of the community here is said to have committed these crimes.”

A Nebraska State Patrol cruiser sits outside the Laurel home, where three people were found dead Thursday morning. The murders of four people in two separate houses shocked the small community.

Margery A. Beck, Associated Press

Keith Knudsen, the city’s mayor who spent his Friday handling phone calls during his day job at a Laurel bank, said the close-knit community, which he described as an extended family, had received the day’s news with a feeling both grief at the loss and relief at Jones’ detention.

He said he was surprised by news Friday morning that the alleged killer was a local resident, the latest in a series of developments that have shaken the city since 3 a.m. Thursday.

“It’s tragic to happen in a small community,” he said. “It’s all still pretty fresh.”

Bolduc praised the efforts of the first responders and especially thanked the firefighters who he said had “preserved the evidence that led us directly” to Jones.

It’s unclear if Jones, who lived at 206 Elm St., ever left Laurel in the wake of the crimes. Bolduc was criticized by reporters on Friday for unclear guidance from authorities on whether local businesses should go into lockdown.

“We were limited to the facts we had at the time,” he said Friday. “Certainly, with more than 60 law enforcement officers in town yesterday, we felt the community was pretty safe.”

Bolduc also reneged on his agency’s warning on Thursday about a black man they said saw a silver sedan drive away from Laurel in the wake of the incident. Jones, the State Patrol confirmed, is white.

“We don’t believe it’s the same person,” said Bolduc. “But we would like to speak to that person as a witness if we can identify him. But as the information developed, that lead certainly became less important.”

Journal Star reporters Lori Pilger and Chris Dunker contributed to this report.

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