Ex-Nevada inmate gets life for 1984 Colorado hammer killings

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Defendant Alex Ewing enters the court for his murder trial, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in an Arapahoe County Court in Centennial, Colo. Ewing is accused of killing Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter Melissa in Aurora in January 1984. (Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado via AP, Pool)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — A former Nevada prison inmate was sentenced Tuesday to three consecutive life sentences in the long-unsolved 1984 hammer killings of three Colorado family members, including a 7-year-old girl, inside their suburban Denver home.

Sixty-one-year-old Alex Ewing was convicted Aug. 6 of first-degree murder after a two-day trial in which prosecutors contended Ewing used a hammer and a knife to kill Bruce Bennett, 27, his wife, Debra, 26, and daughter Melissa in the Bennetts’ home. Melissa Bennett also was raped, prosecutors said.

Another daughter, 3-year-old Vanessa, was beaten in the head with a hammer as were her parents and sister but survived the attack.

Ewing is also charged with the hammer killing of Patricia Louise Smith, 50, in her home in suburban Lakewood about a week before the Aurora killings. Smith also was sexually assaulted. Ewing’s trial in that case is set for October.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Darren Vahle told Ewing on Tuesday that the crimes Ewing was convicted of were the worst he had seen in a quarter-century of practicing law, The Aurora Sentinel reported.

“Over a 12-day span, you inflicted an unspeakable orgy of violence,” Vahle said.

Ewing was identified as a suspect in 2018 through DNA evidence while in imprisoned in Nevada, where he was convicted of attacking a couple in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson in 1984 with an ax handle in their bedroom. The results of a DNA sample taken from Ewing were linked with DNA developed years later from evidence taken from the scenes of the Colorado killings.

Ewing didn’t speak during the sentencing hearing.

Several Bennett family members read statements during Tuesday’s hearing, including Vanessa Bennett Schulz, now 41.

“I’m sure my parents and sister were great people, but it’s unfortunate I don’t remember anything about them,” Bennett Schulz said. “I didn’t just lose my parents and sister, I lost my trust in people.”

Bruce Bennett’s mother, Connie Bennett, 87, asked the judge for the maximum sentence. She had testified that she discovered her son’s bloody body inside the home after her son and his wife did not show up for work.

“Some people may call him an animal,” she said of Ewing. “But I won’t because I think animals have a purpose in this world.”

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