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Arrest in quadruple homicide after victims are found dead in fires at 2 homes in a small Nebraska town

Barricades block off a portion of Elm Street in Laurel, Neb., Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating a situation with multiple fatalities that occurred in Laurel on Thursday morning. Emergency personnel from the state patrol, Belden and the Cedar County Sheriff's Department were working in the area. (Riley Tolan-Keig/The Norfolk Daily News via AP)

 (CNN) — An arrest has been made in a quadruple homicide after the victims were found dead in fires in two homes, Nebraska State Police said Friday morning.

Police said gunfire is suspected to have “played a part” in the incidents at both homes. A press conference is scheduled for later Friday morning.

Just after 3 a.m. Thursday, Cedar County 911 received a phone call about an explosion at a home in the town of Laurel, Nebraska State Patrol’s John Bolduc said during a news conference. When fire crews arrived, they discovered a body inside.

While investigators were on the scene, a second fire was reported a few blocks away, where authorities found “three individuals deceased inside of that residence,” Bolduc said.

“Fire crews have worked diligently to put out the fire but also to preserve evidence that may be located inside the home,” Bolduc said. “Our investigators are processing that second scene at this time.”

“Shortly after the second fire was reported, law enforcement received a report that a silver sedan had been seen leaving the town of Laurel,” he said. “This vehicle was reported westbound on Highway 20,” said Bolduc. It was reportedly driven by a male. The report also said the vehicle may have picked up a passenger before leaving town.

Police later said the vehicle might have left town “much later” than previously thought.

Fire investigators believe accelerants may have been used in both fires, and anyone who was inside the home may have been burned.

“Therefore, it is possible that our suspect or suspects received burn injuries during these incidents,” Bolduc said.

No cause or motive has been established at this time, Bolduc said. No information was provided about the victims.

James Roberts, who has owned Laurel’s Hometown Market for more than a year, said that news of the deaths had shocked the small town. Laurel has a population of around 1,000 people and is located in Cedar County in the northeast of the state.

“Stuff like this doesn’t happen in this town,” Roberts said. “Everybody here knows everybody.”

He said the grocery store has delivered food to the state troopers and firefighters who responded to the scene and are stationed at a nearby church. Staff packed up hamburgers and sandwiches including sloppy joes in addition to some water to show their support.

“It’s a tight-knit town,” Roberts said. “Everybody here is family.”