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Lawyer asks for charges to be dismissed

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HARTINGTON - An attorney for the Laurel woman accused of murder has filed a plea in abatement in the case.

The legal maneuver, filed by Carrie Jones’ attorney Nate Stratton of Norfolk, is essentially an appeal of the county court’s determination of probable cause found at her preliminary hearing.

As part of the plea in abatement, Stratton alleges at the Feb. 15 preliminary hearing, the prosecution failed to present complete evidence the crime was committed and failed to present sworn testimony on all elements of the crimes charged.

The filing asks for an order abating the proceedings and dismissing the pending charges against Carrie Jones.

Her arraignment has been set for March 27.

Carrie Jones, 43, faces charges related to the murder of Gene Twiford and her role in allegedly aiding and abetting, and tampering with evidence in the murders of Gene, and his wife, Janet, and their daughter, Dana, along with Michele Shankles-Ebeling, in Laurel Aug. 4, 2022. Her husband, Jason Jones, 42, 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.

Carrie Jones was not seen in any surveillance videos connected to the purchase of gas cans or fuel used to start the fires, said Tim Doggett of the Nebraska State Patrol at the Feb. 15 hearing. And he confirmed that Carrie was at work at the time the murders are alleged to have occurred.

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, said Corey O’Brien of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office at the Feb. 15 hearing.

At the preliminary hearing, investigators testified that Carrie Jones was motivated to murder Twiford on Aug. 4, 2022, after years of his verbal harassment.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Jason Jones’ case. However, Meismer is considering a motion to quash sections of the death penalty with a ruling expected by mid-March.