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Preliminary hearing waived in murder case

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HARTINGTON - A Laurel man accused of murder had his case bound over to Cedar County District Court here Tuesday.

Lawyers for Jason A. Jones, 42, waived a preliminary hearing in Cedar County Court. Judge Douglas Luebe bound his case over to district court where he will appear for arraignment Jan. 23. 

Jones is accused of four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree arson, and four counts of use of a firearm to commit a felony  in the Aug. 4 deaths of his neighbors, Michele Shankles-Ebeling, 53, Gene Twiford, 86, Janet Twiford, 85, and Dana Twiford, 55. 

First responders were called to 209 Elm St. in Laurel around 3 a.m., Aug. 4 to the report of an explosion and house fire, finding Michele Shankles-Ebeling, 53, deceased. About five hours later, local law enforcement on scene noticed smoke coming from a home a few blocks away at 503 Elm St.

Gene Twiford, his wife Janet and their daughter Dana were found to be deceased at that home.

All of the victims were found with what appeared to be gunshot wounds, according to court documents.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 5, the Nebraska State Patrol SWAT Team found Jones with significant burns while they were serving a warrant at his home in Laurel. Jones was transported to a Lincoln hospital where he received treatment until his release Oct. 27. 

If convicted, Jones will face a minimum of life in prison and a maximum sentence of death.