UPDATE 9:30 a.m. Friday
The Nebraska State Patrol held a press conference on Friday morning to provide an update on the four homicides and two house fires in Laurel. Authorities arrested a suspect early Friday morning.
Col. John Bolduc and Capt. Dain Hicks from Nebraska State Patrol were joined by Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda during the press conference.
Bolduc said that the suspect is Jason A. Jones, 42, of Laurel. According to NSP, he lived across the street from the victims and was taken into custody early Friday morning. Jones is currently in a Lincoln hospital with burns and is in serious condition, according to Bolduc. NSP said that investigators found physical evidence at the fire scenes that led them to Jones.
The victims in the first location were identified as Gene Twiford, 86, Janet Twiford, 85, and Dana Twiford, 55. All three were residents of the home. They were found with gunshot wounds.
Another victim at a second location on the same street and also with suspected gunshot wounds was identified as Michele Ebeling, 53.
According to the NSP news release: "Investigators developed information to believe that Jones was inside his home ... in Laurel. The NSP SWAT Team was activated, and an arrest warrant was obtained for Jones. Following repeated attempts to have Jones exit the home voluntarily, the SWAT Team made entry into the home and located Jones in a bedroom, with severe burns. Jones was flown to St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Lincoln for treatment of his burn injuries. He is in custody at the hospital."
UPDATE 9 a.m. Friday
Authorities in Nebraska say a suspect has been arrested in connection to the Thursday killings in Laurel, which left four people dead and two houses burned.
This is a developing story.
UPDATE: 9:45 p.m. Thursday
The Nebraska State Patrol has released additional details in the investigation of two crime scenes that left four dead in Laurel, Nebraska.
Most notably, officials believe that gunfire played a part in the crime scenes at both residences. The cause of death has not been determined yet.
NSP has also readjusted the timeline of events, urging locals in the area to recall whether they saw anything atypical between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. Authorities believe both incidents occurred just after 3 a.m., but indications of the fire at the second crime scene where three were found dead weren't visible until after crews had arrived to the scene of the first fire, which was initially called in as an explosion.
A total of four victims were found between the two homes.
There are no additional details on the description of the suspect or the silver sedan that the suspect(s) may have left Laurel in, but NSP believes that the vehicle and its occupants left Laurel later than initially thought.
UPDATE: 4 p.m. Thursday
The Nebraska State Patrol announced that four people were found dead Thursday morning at two separate locations in the small community of Laurel, Nebraska.
NSP held a press conference to divulge details of the investigation, which is ongoing. A spokesman said the first call about the incident came from a member of the public after 3 a.m. Thursday, and first responders on the scene discovered one person dead.
As crews were still at the first scene, a call of another fire came in just blocks away from the first scene. First responders discovered three individuals dead at the second scene, for a total of four dead that morning.
NSP could not confirm whether the victims were related, but said "it would be a stretch to say there’s no connection” between the scenes. Foul play is suspected.
Witness reports to law enforcement stated that a silver sedan was seen leaving Laurel after the second fire had been reported, driving westbound on Highway 20, and may have picked up a passenger before leaving town.
Fire investigators believe that accelerant was used to ignite the fires, and that the suspect or suspects may have also sustained burns. Local businesses were asked to review surveillance footage in an effort to establish more information about the suspect or suspects.
The identities of the four victims will be announced once the next of kin has been located and notified. The official cause of death has not yet been determined, but the bodies will be processed by the local coroner.
Another briefing on the investigation is expected Friday. In the meantime, anyone with information relating to the death investigation is asked to contact Nebraska State Patrol at 402-479-4921.
An unknown number of people were found dead Thursday in two homes in a small community in northeastern Nebraska, and schools and most businesses went on lockdown as a precaution at the recommendation of police, officials said.
Cody Thomas, a spokesman for the Nebraska State Patrol, said he didn't know how many people were found dead or how anyone died, but that fire "was involved" at both houses. He said state investigators were headed to Laurel and would likely take the lead in investigating what happened.
Most businesses, a senior center and schools voluntarily went on lockdown at the recommendation of police, said Lori Hansen, a clerical assistant at the Laurel City Hall. She said she had no other information about what was happening at the police scenes.
"We've been listening to TV to try to find out what's going on," she said.
A woman who answered the phone at the Cedar County Sheriff's Office said she had no information about the deaths and that she was the only person in the office.
Laurel is home to fewer than 1,000 people and is located about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of Omaha.
The patrol plans to hold a news conference later Thursday to discuss its findings.