Neighbor charged with 10 felonies in reference to 4 murders in small Nebraska city | Crime and courts

The 42-year-old man suspected of killing four of his neighbors in the northeastern Nebraska town of Laurel has been charged with 10 felonies — including four counts of first-degree murder — for his alleged role in the crimes that claimed 1,000 lives. at home. residents about 40 minutes west of Sioux City, Iowa.

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

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

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 filings, though Col. John Bolduc, superintendent of the state patrol, that the fires are thought 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. The three lived in the house at 503 Elm St. and were found dead with apparent gunshot wounds, State Patrol Investigator Michael Henry said in the affidavit for the search warrant.

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

At the Twifords’ home, police found a Ruger .57 caliber pistol, a firearm magazine and a Molotov cocktail, Henry said. Investigators determined that Jones was the registered owner of the gun. He bought it in February 2021.

Security footage from the Mini Mart showed Jones filling two gas cans there at about 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 at a morning news conference at the town’s fire station. No one else was in the house when Jones was arrested.

Bolduc said Jones had severe burns over “a large part of his body” when he was arrested, apparently stemming from the pair of fires set in the victims’ homes. serious condition.

State Patrol spokesman Cody Thomas said he is not aware of any prior contacts law enforcement may have had with Jones prior to his arrest Friday.

Prosecutors have formally charged Jones with four counts of first-degree murder, as well as 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 offered no comment Friday.

There is no apparent connection between the victims and Jones — other than their proximity along the tree-lined street. At a news conference Friday, Bolduc declined to share a suspect’s motive.

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

“And that will be compounded by the betrayal of trust they feel, because a member of the public here allegedly committed these crimes.”

A Nebraska State Patrol cruiser sits in front of the home in Laurel 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 town’s mayor who spent Friday’s calls attending to his day job at a Laurel bank, said the close-knit community, which he described as an extended family, had taken today’s news with sadness both for the loss. and relieved Jones’ worries.

He said he was surprised by the news on Friday morning that the alleged killer was a local resident, the latest in a series of developments that have shocked the town since 3am on Thursday.

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

Bolduc praised the efforts of the first responders and, specifically, thanked the fire crews who he said “preserved the evidence that directly brought us” to Jones.

It is unclear if Jones, who lived at 206 Elm St., ever left Laurel after the crimes. Bolduc faced scrutiny from reporters on Friday for the authorities’ vague guidance on whether local businesses should go into lockdown.

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

Bolduc also walked back his agency’s warning Thursday about a Black man they said was seen driving a silver sedan from Laurel after the incident. Jones, the State Patrol confirmed, is white.

“We don’t believe that’s the same person,” Bolduc said. “But we want to speak to that person as a witness if we can identify them. But, certainly, as the information emerged, that guidance became less significant.”

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

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