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Lawyers look to move murder trial



HARTINGTON – Defense lawyers for a Laurel couple accused of murdering four people intend to file a motion for a change of venue for the upcoming trials.

Jason Jones, 43, waived his appearance in Cedar County District Court Monday morning, while his wife, Carrie Jones, 44, was brought in front of the court and Judge Bryan Meismer heard status updates in both cases.

Todd Lancaster of the Nebraska Public Advocacy Commission and Jason Jones’ lawyer indicated he would be filing a motion in limine to argue the exclusion of certain evidence at trial, and also for a change in venue and a motion for supplemental juror questionnaires.

Doug Stratton, court-appointed attorney for Carrie Jones, indicated he would be filing similar motions in her case.

“It’s our intention, so we’re not doing things twice, piggy-back on their hearing as well, and that saves the court some time and all the parties involved some time,” Stratton said.

Corey O’Brien of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, who is prosecuting the Jones’ cases, wanted to make sure that a hearing on the two cases at the same time would each create a clear court record with separate exhibits designated for each.

“While we have a similar factual situation I think they’re very different cases. My intention is to keep things as separately as possible,” Meismer said.

Stratton said he would also file a waiver of speedy trial rights in the Carrie Jones case.

All motions are expected to be filed in the next two weeks, and a hearing date was set for March 28.

The Joneses are charged with murder in an event that left four people – Gene Twiford, Janet Twiford, Dana Twiford and Michele Shankles-Ebeling – dead on Aug. 4, 2022.

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.

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 attorney general’s office.

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 Jones’ cases were heard in front of a sizable court audience Monday morning with more than a dozen of victims’ family members in attendance........check out the Jan. 24 Cedar County News for the complete article.