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Janet L. Noecker
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Judge denies Jones' motion in murder case

Latest legal maneuver in murder case denied

HARTINGTON - A judge has denied the latest legal maneuver by a Laurel woman accused of murder.

Judge Bryan Meismer denied the plea in abatement filed in the case against 44-year-old Carrie Jones in a ruling Tuesday. 

A plea in abatement is used to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence at preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing evidence only needs to establish that a crime was committed and that there is probable cause that the defendant committed it. 

In his ruling, Meismer said a “low burden of proof” is required at a preliminary hearing and that there was sufficient evidence to support the three charges against Carrie Jones: first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence and accessory to a felony. 

The preliminary hearing in February lasted about four hours. 

Carrie Jones is accused of murdering Gene Twiford and the crimes for her role in allegedly aiding and abetting, and tampering with evidence in his murder and the murder of his wife, Janet, and their daughter, Dana, along with Michele Shankles-Ebeling, in Laurel Aug. 4, 2022. 

Her husband, Jason Jones, 43, is accused of four counts of murder and four counts of arson along with numerous weapons charges.

First responders were called to Shankles-Ebeling’s home at 209 Elm St., Laurel, around 3 a.m. Aug. 4 to the report of an explosion and house fire. About five hours later, local law enforcement on scene noticed smoke coming from the Twiford home just a few blocks away. Although the presence of smoke wasn’t evident for several hours, evidence suggests that the Twiford fire actually started first. 

All of the victims were found to have gunshot wounds. 

Jones was apprehended at his home the morning after the murders with severe burns over his body and was treated at a Lincoln hospital for several weeks before being released to the Nebraska Department of Corrections Oct. 27. 

While Jason Jones is considered the principal offender, under Nebraska statutes, Carrie Jones can be found guilty as well if she aided and encouraged him to carry out the killing, according to the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office who is prosecuting both Jones cases with assistance from Cedar County Attorney Nick Matney.

At Carrie Jones’ preliminary hearing, investigators testified that she was motivated to murder Twiford after years of his verbal harassment. 

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against her husband.

The Joneses both have hearings set for May 22 in Cedar County District Court.