Authorities identify suspect, victims connected to 4 Laurel, NE deaths

Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 6:02 AM CDT
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UPDATE

“First of all, I want to acknowledge the indescribable grief that this community is experiencing right now and that’s going to be compounded by the betrayal of trust that they’re going to feel because a community member here is alleged to have committed these crimes.”

Col. John Bolduc, Nebraska State Patrol.

LAUREL, Neb. (KTIV) - A suspect is in custody after authorities found four people dead at two burned homes in Laurel, Nebraska.

The Nebraska State Patrol alleges 42-year-old Jason Jones committed the four homicides found in Laurel, Nebraska Thursday. Jones is a resident of Laurel and actually lives across the street from one of the houses where law enforcement found a body in.

Early Friday morning, NSP’s tactical team entered Jones’ home after surrounding it. We are told Jones has serious burns all over his body and he is in serious condition. He was taken to a Lincoln hospital to be treated. He is facing a total of ten charges, including first-degree murder and arson.

NSP said they were able to find physical evidence at both houses where the bodies were found. This evidence pointed them towards Jones. Authorities didn’t release what exactly the evidence is, as NSP emphasized they are just at the start of the investigation.

After Jones was arrested, NSP held a news conference identifying the four victims. Three of them were identified as 86-year-old Gene Twiford, 85-year-old Janet Twiford and 55-year-old Dana Twiford. They were located at their residence, 503 Elm Street, and all had suspected gunshot wounds.

At another Laurel home, police say 53-year-old Michele Ebeling died at her residence, which is located at 209 Elm Street. She also had suspected gunshot wounds. Her home is located across the street from 206 Elm Street, where Jones was arrested.

On Thursday, authorities in Laurel, Nebraska found one person dead at 209 Elm Street after...
On Thursday, authorities in Laurel, Nebraska found one person dead at 209 Elm Street after firefighters responded to a reported explosion and fire. Later Thursday morning, crews were sent to 503 Elm Street for another reported fire. They found three people dead inside that home. Then early Friday morning, authorities arrested a man allegedly connected to these deaths at 206 Elm Street.(KTIV)

Authorities say the community of Laurel has rallied together to help both law enforcement and the victims.

“It cannot be understated that this has been an entire team effort. Not only by our law enforcement partners and firefighters but the entire community who has stepped up, offered assistance, cooperated fully with investigators,” said Col. Bolduc.

NSP also commended responders for the approach they took. It was key that they took extra precaution while battling yesterday’s house fires so evidence could be recovered. And with Jones now arrested, authorities believe there is no longer a threat to the public.

You can view NSP’s full update on the deaths in Laurel here.

A neighbor’s account of the standoff and arrest of Jason Jones

But though authorities say the threat to the community has passed, things were quite different Friday morning when Jones was arrested.

As the standoff was unfolding KTIV was able to speak with a neighbor who lives right across the street from both the alleged initial homicide scene and the home where the suspect was arrested. He described the use of non-lethal grenades and an armored vehicle used to ram into the home.

Alan Pallas, who also witnessed Thursday’s events, says police and snipers took positions around the home for about two hours.

It’s unclear if the suspect, Jones, was hiding from police in his home that whole time or if he left the home and returned. Either way, Pallas says the police presence was overwhelming while they executed their arrest warrant.

“And then directly across the street from me, there was two snipers on the church roof. And they were announcing they had a warrant for this person’s arrest. He was supposed to come out of the house with his hands up,” said Pallas.

Pallas says he’s thankful to be alive, but it was unnerving that the suspect was apparently across the street from him for some time after the homicides.

Charges filed against Jason Jones

KTIV was able to acquire court documents filed in Cedar County, Nebraska that say what charges Jones is facing. In total, there are ten charges. Those charges are:

  • Four counts of first-degree murder.
    • Each charge has a minimum sentence of life in prison and a maximum of the death penalty.
  • Two counts of first-degree arson.
    • Each charge has a minimum sentence of one year in prison and a maximum of 50 years in prison.
  • Four counts of use of a firearm to commit a felony.
    • Each charge has a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 50 years in prison.

Timeline of events

Court documents from Cedar County and press releases from NSP go into further detail about how law enforcement found the deceased and arrested Jones. That information has been broken down below.

  • Aug. 4:
    • At approximately 3:11 a.m. authorities learned of an explosion that occurred at 209 Elm Street in Laurel.
    • When first responders got to the house, they found an unresponsive Michele Ebeling. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Upon further investigation, authorities discovered Ebeling had two apparent gunshot wounds and there was a bullet casing found nearby. They also discovered evidence that suggests an accelerant was used to help light the fire.
    • At about 9:30 a.m. authorities received reports of smoke coming from the house at 503 Elm Street in Laurel, just three blocks away from the first house.
    • Once there, authorities found three people deceased - Gene, Janet and Dana Twiford - who also had apparent gunshot wounds.
    • Further investigating revealed signs that the back door of the house was forcibly opened. Authorities also reported finding a firearm, ammo and signs that the fire was started intentionally. Authorities currently believe both fires were started around the same time. It just took longer for the fire at 503 Elm Street to become visible from outside the house.
  • Aug. 5:
    • After gathering additional evidence, authorities determined Jones was at his Laurel residence. The NSP then deployed its SWAT team and acquired an arrest warrant for Jones.
    • Following repeated attempts to have him exit the home, the SWAT team entered Jones’ residence and reportedly found him in a bedroom.
    • Jones was then taken into custody and sent to a Lincoln hospital to be treated for severe burns.

GoFundMe started for one of the victims

A GoFundMe fundraiser has been started for at least one of the victims in Laurel. It’s working to raise money for funeral expenses for Michele Ebeling. Those looking to donate can do so here.

Michele Ebeling was one of the deceased found in Laurel, Nebraska on Aug. 4.
Michele Ebeling was one of the deceased found in Laurel, Nebraska on Aug. 4.(GoFundMe)

This is a Developing Story. We’ll update this article as we get more information.