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4 bodies discovered in 2 house fires in Nebraska town; neighbor arrested

4 dead after 2 Nebraska homes go up in flames
4 dead after 2 Nebraska homes go up in flames; foul play suspected 00:19

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.

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 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.

Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda described the neighborhood where the two fires occurred as a retirement community with about 1,000 residents.

"Everybody knows everybody in this small community," Koranda said.

After the victims were found dead, Koranda said 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.

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