Four people were found dead early Thursday morning at two homes that were on fire in Laurel, Neb., and foul play is suspected, the authorities said.
Just after 3 a.m. Thursday, the authorities in the city of about 1,000 people, northwest of Omaha, received a call about an explosion in the 200 block of Elm Street, Col. John A. Bolduc, the superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said at a news conference.
When the authorities arrived, they found a person dead inside the home, Colonel Bolduc said. As they were investigating, they received a call about another fire at a home three blocks away and found three people dead inside it, Colonel Bolduc said. The names and ages of the victims were not released.
The authorities were searching for a suspect or suspects but said it was too early to discuss a motive, Colonel Bolduc said. He said he believed the two episodes were related.
“We have two fires with deceased people three blocks apart,” he said. “It would be a stretch to say that there’s no connection, but it’s very early in the investigation.”
Shortly after the second fire was reported, the authorities received a report that a silver sedan had been seen leaving Laurel and heading west on Highway 20. The vehicle may have picked up a passenger before leaving town, Colonel Bolduc said.
Investigators believe that accelerants may have been used in both fires, Colonel Bolduc said. “They also believe that anyone who was inside the home at the time may have been burned,” he said. “Therefore it is possible that our suspect or suspects received burn injuries during these incidents.”
Larry Koranda, the Cedar County sheriff, did not immediately return phone and email messages. At the news conference, he called Laurel a tight-knit community where “everybody knows everybody.”