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Jury finds man guilty in 'hammer killer' murders of Aurora family members in 1984

Alex Ewing also faces October trial in killing of Lakewood woman
Crime scene
Posted at 5:29 PM, Aug 06, 2021

DENVER – An Arapahoe County jury on Friday found 60-year-old Alex Ewing guilty of killing three members of an Aurora family with a hammer in January 1984 in a case that went cold until DNA evidence linked him to the murders in 2018.

Ewing was convicted of killing 27-year-old Bruce and 26 year-old Debra Bennett, as well as their 7-year-old daughter Melissa, in Aurora. The couple’s 3-year-old daughter Vanessa was also beaten but survived with permanent injuries. Prosecutors alleged Ewing raped Melissa Bennett before killing her.

The jury found Ewing guilty on all counts. He faced charges including first-degree murder, felony murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, sexual assault on a child and burglary.

Ewing was also linked to the killing of Patricia Smith in Lakewood six days before the Bennetts were murdered, as well as to the attack of Donna Holm in Aurora, who survived her injuries.

Warrants were issued for Ewing in 2018 while he was in prison in Nevada on attempted murder and burglary charges after DNA cross-referencing linked him to the crime scenes.

In 2002, Colorado Bureau of Investigation investigators linked the DNA at both crime scenes. Nevada prison officials put Ewing’s DNA into a database in July 2018, and CBI investigators discovered the match the next day.

Ewing fought extradition to Colorado, but the Nevada Supreme Court denied his motion in February 2020, and he was extradited to Colorado shortly afterward.

During the trial, Ewing’s lawyer argued that evidence pointed to people other than Ewing being responsible for the murders and that the initial investigation involved shoddy police work. Prosecutors argued that all the evidence pointed to Ewing being the killers of the Bennetts and said the scenes were similar to the other for which he has been charged. Bruce Bennett’s mother testified about finding her son’s bloody body inside his home.

On Thursday, the court reported the jury had reached an impasse during their deliberations, and the judge in the case sent them home after about 4 hours of deliberations.

They were brought back Friday around 8:30 a.m. and reached a verdict around 2 p.m. Judge Darren Vahle denied Ewing’s defense’s request for a mistrial.

"This was years in coming, and I hope this verdict gives hope to victims and hope for justice," 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner said after the verdict was read.

Ewing also faces a trial for the killing of Smith, in which he faces first-degree murder charges as well. He is next due in court in that case in mid-September and a trial is slated to start Oct. 18.

People found guilty of first-degree murder face an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes committed more recently, but Ewing faces the possibility of parole after 20 years because of when the crime occurred, the district attorney said.

Ewing is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 17 at 1:30 p.m.