Man charged with first-degree murder in deaths of 4 people in house fires, Nebraska State Patrol says

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Police have arrested and charged a Nebraska man in connection to the deaths of four people in two house fires that authorities initially called suspicious. 

Jason A. Jones, a Laurel resident who lived “right across the street” from one of the fire scenes, was arrested Friday and charged with first-degree murder and arson, Nebraska State Patrol public relations director Cody Thomas told USA TODAY. 

Jones, 42, had burns over a large part of his body at the time of his arrest and was flown to a hospital, Bolduc said. He was arrested inside his home, according to the Nebraska State Patrol.

The first blaze happened around 3 a.m. Thursday. A 911 caller reported an explosion at a home and when crews got there, they discovered 53-year-old Michele Ebeling dead inside.

As crews worked to douse that blaze, a second fire was reported at a house three blocks away, according to police. Investigators found Gene Twiford, 86; Janet Twiford, 85; and Dana Twiford, 55, dead inside the house. 

Authorities said investigators found physical evidence at both crime scenes linked to the suspect. All four victims had “suspected gunshot wounds,” according to the state patrol.

Jones has also been charged with four counts of using a firearm to commit a felony, according to court documents filed in Cedar County, Nebraska obtained by KTIV News.

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Bolduc declined to answer questions about a possible motive and said there is still a “large volume of evidence to process.” He added the investigation is still in its “early” stages and it is unknown if there will be additional arrests in the case. 

Authorities initially suspected foul play, and Bolduc on Thursday said an accelerant was believed to have been used in the fires.

Police recommended lockdowns for schools and businesses in the area on Thursday. After Jones’ arrest, Bolduc said “there is no more danger to the Laurel community.” 

Contributing: Christal Hayes and Christine Fernando, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.