Four people were found dead in two early-morning house fires which occurred just blocks apart in the eastern Nebraska town of Laurel Thursday. Authorities said foul play is suspected, but no arrests have been made.
A little after 3 a.m., firefighters were dispatched to a report of an explosion and fire at a Laurel home, Nebraska State Patrol Col. John A. Bolduc said in a Thursday afternoon news conference.
Firefighters arrived to find a body inside, Bolduc said.
While fire crews and law enforcement were on scene, they received a report of a second house fire about three blocks away. They responded to the second burning home, where three more bodies were found inside, Bolduc disclosed.
The names of the four victims were not immediately released. The medical examiner will conduct autopsies to determine their exact causes of death.
Bolduc did not provide a possible motive, only saying that “foul play is suspected.”
“We have two fires with deceased people three blocks apart,” Bolduc told reporters. “It would be a stretch to say that there’s no connection.”
Accelerants may have been used in both fires, Bolduc added, stating it is possible the suspect or suspects may have burn injuries.
Shortly after responding to the second fire, investigators received a report of a suspect vehicle headed west on a highway out of Laurel, Bolduc said. It was described only as a silver sedan driven by a Black male. The driver may have also picked up a passenger.
Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda described the neighborhood where the two fires occurred as a retirement community with about 1,000 residents.
“Everybody knows everybody in this small community,” Koranda said.
Bolduc said investigators were asking residents and businesses for any security camera footage which could assist in the case.
Laurel is located about 40 miles west of Sioux City, Iowa.