The Nebraska State Patrol arrested a suspect early this morning in connection with four homicides in Laurel early yesterday morning. The NSP will hold a news conference this morning at 8:30 MT in Laurel on the arrest.
Four people were found dead early yesterday in two burning homes in the small community of Laurel, about 100 miles northeast of Omaha. No names have been released.
Nebraska State Patrol Supt Colonel John Bolduc told an afternoon news conference that foul play is suspected in all 4 deaths, and that accelerants may have been used in both fires with the possibility the arsonist was burned in the process.
Colonel Bolduc said firefighters responding to a call shortly after 3 AM about an explosion and fire at a Laurel home found the body of one person inside. A few minutes later, another fire was reported 3 blocks away with 3 more bodies inside.
Because the 2 fires were so close together in time and location, suspicions were raised immediately and responders at the second house worked to preserve any evidence while putting out that fire.
Authorities are working with residents and businesses near the houses to obtain any relevant security camera footage.
Bolduc would not say how or if the fires and deaths were related, including whether any of the victims were related to each other, but did say that witnesses reported seeing a man leaving Laurel in a silver car before the bodies were discovered.
He referred to the man as a suspect in the deaths and said he may have picked up a passenger on the way out of town.
Asked by reporters about gunshots being heard about the time of the fires, Bolduc said investigators have not found any evidence to support that.
Laurel has fewer than a thousand residents and Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda calls it “a very safe community,” adding that the fires and deaths “shakes everybody up.”
Most businesses, a senior center, and schools in Laurel voluntarily went on lockdown around the time the bodies were discovered at the recommendation of the city’s lone police officer.