Aug. 4 (UPI) — Four people were found dead inside two homes set ablaze in the small Nebraska city of Laurel on Thursday in what authorities suspect was result of foul play.
The two crime scenes were separated by three blocks in the city of 1,000 people located about 120 miles northwest of Omaha, and though police are unsure of how the residences are related Col. John Bolduc, the superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, told reporters during a press conference that “it would be a stretch to say there is no connection.”
“In total we have four individuals deceased at two different crime scenes about three blocks apart. Foul play is suspected in these deaths,” he said.
Police were called to the first residence on the 200 block of Elm Street just after 3 a.m. concerning reports of an explosion. As they were responding, the authorities received a second call about a house on fire blocks away where the bodies of three people were found inside.
The names of the victims were not released, and authorities are calling on the public for anyone with information to come forward.
Bolduc said that shortly after the second fire was reported law enforcement were informed of a silver sedan driven by a Black man that had been seen leaving town, traveling west on Highway 20.
It may have picked up a passenger in the process, he said.
Investigators believe that accelerants were used in the igniting of the two houses and that anyone who was inside when they were set ablaze may have been burned.
“Therefore, it is possible that our suspect or suspects received burn injuries,” Bolduc said.
Police were working to determine a motive and the relationship, if any, between the victims.
Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda remarked during the press conference that Laurel is a safe, tight-knit community while calling on the public to report anything that seems out of the ordinary.
“Don’t know for sure if the people knew each other but everybody knows everybody in this small community,” he said.