Death penalty sought for man charged in Nebraska killings

Jan 18, 2023, 8:31 PM | Updated: Jan 19, 2023, 10:35 am

Prosecutors in northeastern Nebraska will seek the death penalty for a man charged in the killings of four people last summer in the small town of Laurel.

Assistant Nebraska Attorney General Corey O’Brien filed notice on Tuesday of aggravating circumstances that would justify a death sentence for Jason Jones, 42, if he’s convicted.

Jones is charged with arson, weapons counts and four counts of first-degree murder in the August killings of Gene Twiford, 86, and his wife, Janet Twiford, 85; their daughter, Dana Twiford, 55; and Michele Ebeling, 53.

Prosecutors say Jones started fires at the victims’ homes after they were killed. A day later police found Jones in his wife’s house — which sits across the street from Ebeling’s home — suffering from severe burns. He was hospitalized for two months before being released and moved to a prison in Lincoln to await trial. He’s being held without bond.

Some of the aggravating circumstances O’Brien laid out include the accusations that Jones committed multiple killings within a short period of time; that he did so during the commission of other felonies; that at least two of the killings were carried out in an effort to keep the victims from identifying the killer; and that the fires were set to try to conceal the killer’s identity.

Jones has filed notice that he will not enter a plea at his arraignment set for Monday while his attorneys challenge the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty.

Attorneys with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, which often represents defendants in death penalty cases, are representing Jones. The attorneys — Todd Lancaster and Matthew McDonald — did not immediately return messages Thursday seeking comment.

Jones’ wife, 43-year-old Carrie Jones, was arrested last month and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Gene Twiford, as well as tampering with evidence and being an accessory for reportedly hiding her husband as authorities searched for him. The arrest affidavit that holds details of the accusations against her has been sealed from public view.

She is being held on $1 million bail and is set to be arraigned Tuesday. Her attorney, Doug Stratton of Norfolk, declined to comment when reached Thursday.

Laurel is a community of less than 1,000 people, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Omaha.

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