Malicious intent is suspected after four people were found dead in multiple homes in a small Nebraska town Thursday morning following reports of an explosion and fires, authorities said.
A suspect in the case is at large, Colonel John Bolduc, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Police, said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Bolduc said state and local authorities are “investigating multiple crime scenes” in Laurel, in northeastern Nebraska.
Authorities first responded to a home shortly after 3 a.m. after a 911 caller reported an explosion at the home, Bolduc said. There was a fire in the house, he said.
Once inside, officers and deputies found one dead, he said.
While the first house had a fire reported at a second house three blocks away, Bolduc said. Three people were found dead in that house, he said.
Bolduc said foul play is suspected in the four dead, and rescuers worked in the second house to preserve evidence while putting out the fire.
The authorities are looking for a silver sedan in connection with the investigation, Bolduc said. The car was reported leaving Laurel shortly after the second fire was reported, and the male driver may have picked up a passenger before leaving town, he said.
Fire investigators believe accelerators may have been used in both fires in the homes, Bolduc said, noting that the suspect or suspects may have burns.
Authorities are working with local residents and businesses to obtain relevant CCTV footage as part of their investigation.
The identities of the victims will be released pending family notice, and a cause of death will be determined after an autopsy, Bolduc said.
It’s too early in the investigation to establish a link between the victims, whether this could be characterized as a domestic incident, Bolduc said.
Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda said the community of 1,000 people is shocked by what has happened.
“Everyone knows everyone in this small community,” he said.