(LAUREL, Neb.) — Foul play is suspected after four people were found dead at multiple homes in a small Nebraska town Thursday morning following reports of an explosion and fires, authorities said.
A suspect is in custody, Nebraska State Patrol announced Friday morning. More details on the suspect and arrest are forthcoming.
Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent Col. John Bolduc said during a press briefing Thursday afternoon that state and local authorities were “investigating multiple crime scenes” in Laurel, in northeastern Nebraska.
Authorities first responded to a home shortly after 3 a.m. after a 911 caller reported an explosion at the residence, Bolduc said. There was a fire at the home, he said.
Once inside, responding officers and deputies found one person dead, he said.
While at the first home, a fire was reported at a second home three blocks away, Bolduc said. Three people were found dead inside that home, he said.
Bolduc said foul play is suspected in the four deaths, and that responders at the second home worked to preserve any evidence while putting out the fire.
A Nebraska State Patrol statement after the fires were suppressed said “gunfire is suspected to have played a part” in both homes.
Authorities were searching for a silver sedan in connection with the investigation, Bolduc said Thursday. The car was initially reported leaving Laurel shortly after the second fire was reported, and the male driver may have picked up a passenger before leaving the town, he said. The later Nebraska State Patrol statement indicated the car may have left the town later than initially reported.
Fire investigators believe accelerants may have been used in both fires at the homes, said Bolduc, noting that the suspect or suspects may have burn injuries.
Authorities are working with local residents and businesses to obtain any relevant security camera footage as part of their investigation.
The identities of the victims will be released pending family notification, and a cause of death will be determined following an autopsy, Bolduc said.
It is too early in the investigation to determine any connection between the victims, or if this can be characterized as a domestic incident, Bolduc said.
Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda said Thursday the community of 1,000 is shaken by what happened.
“Everybody knows everybody in this small community,” he said.
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