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Arrest made after 4 people found dead in 2 burning homes in Nebraska

Jason Jones, 42, was arrested on "probable cause" in the alleged slayings of four neighbors believed to be shot prior to being found in separate burning homes, said the Nebraska State Patrol.
Barricades block off a portion of Elm Street in Laurel, Neb., on Thursday. Riley Tolan-Keig / The Norfolk Daily News via AP

Authorities in a small Nebraska town said a resident was arrested Friday “in connection with four homicides” discovered at two nearby homes that may have been deliberately set on fire.

A Nebraska State Patrol SWAT team arrested Jason Jones, 42, at his home in Laurel, Nebraska, on “probable cause that this suspect committed these crimes,” Nebraska State Patrol Col. John Bolduc announced at a news conference Friday.

Bolduc identified three of the victims as Gene Twiford, 86, Janet Twiford, 85, and Dana Twiford, 55. Officials said they lived at a home on the 500 block of Elm Street. They each had suspected gunshot wounds, according to a statement from the state patrol.

The fourth victim was identified as Michele Ebeling, 53, who lived on the 200 block of Elm Street, the same block where Jones lived, and only blocks away from where the other three victims were discovered, officials said.

Ebeling also had suspected gunshot wounds, officials said.

Bolduc did not provide a motive for the alleged slayings. He said when investigators located Jones, he had “serious burns” on his body and was airlifted to the St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Lincoln.

It wasn't immediately clear Friday if Jones had a lawyer.

The state patrol announced Thursday that they had discovered one body after an explosion was reported at a home on Elm Street at about 3 a.m. Thursday. While at the home, a second house fire was reported about three blocks away. Three others were found dead there.

Officials on Thursday said investigators believed accelerants were used in both fires and that a suspect may have been injured.

Bolduc on Friday praised firefighters’ “heroic efforts.”

“We asked them to put out these fires while preserving the evidence of these crimes. They had to adjust their tactics in order to do that,” he said. “Their efforts preserved the evidence that led us directly to the suspect.”

Bolduc did not rule out additional arrests, but said the community is safe.

Laurel, a city of about 1,000 residents, is about 130 miles northwest of Omaha.