Death penalty sought for man charged with murders in Nebraska

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

Nebraska Assistant Attorney General Corey O’Brien filed Tuesday a notice of aggravating circumstances that would warrant a death sentence for 42-year-old Jason Jones, if convicted.

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

Prosecutors say Jones set fire to the victims’ homes after they were killed. A day later, police found Jones at his wife’s home – which is across the street from Ebeling’s home – with severe burns. He was hospitalized for two months before being released and moved to a Lincoln prison to await trial. He is being held without bond.

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Some of the aggravating circumstances put forward by O’Brien include allegations that Jones committed multiple murders in a short period of time; that he did so while committing other crimes; that at least two of the murders were committed to prevent the victims from identifying the killer; and that the fires were set in an attempt to conceal the killer’s identity.

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Jones has said he will not plead his indictment for Monday as his lawyers challenge the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty.

Lawyers from the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, which often represents defendants in death penalty cases, are representing Jones. The lawyers – Todd Lancaster and Matthew McDonald – did not immediately return messages on 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, tampering with evidence and complicity in allegedly hiding her husband while authorities searched for him. The affidavit containing the details of the allegations against her has been sealed from the public.

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

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