A police officer on patrol spotted the fire at Fero's Bar and Grill just before 2 a.m., closing time for most Colorado bars. Firefighters found four women and one man dead inside. They were later identified as Young Fero - the bar's owner - Daria M. Pohl, 22; Kellene Fallon, 45; Ross Richter, 29; and Tereasa Beesley, 45. Pohl, Fallon and Beesley were from Denver and Fero was from Aurora.
The medical examiner didn't release the cause of death at the time of the deaths. However, on Thursday, the medical examiner said all the victims were killed after being stabbed multiple times.
The five dead were believed to be the only people in the bar when the fire started, other than the suspects.
The officer who reported the fire said he heard screams, but investigators said they likely came from bystanders outside.
The bar is in a strip mall near the intersection of Alameda Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. It is wedged among a check-cashing store, a tennis shop, a nail salon and a car repair business.
Police said the fire did extensive damage, but little of that was visible from the outside.
The bar attracted both regulars and people staying in nearby hotels, but neighbors said it didn't seem busy most days.
Frequent patron Chris Brady said the bar's customers ranged from "semi-homeless-looking people" to patrons in suits and ties.
He was at the bar for a regular poker game held Tuesdays and won $25 cash before leaving at about 11 p.m.
"There was nobody random or crazy in there," Brady said.
Brady said Fero was known for cooking up beef dishes for customers at a moment's notice and usually would close the bar herself.
She bid him goodnight Tuesday as he paid his tab.
"She said, "Thank you, sweetie. Have a good night,'" Brady said. "I said, `You too.'"
Mike Spinale, one of Fero's neighbors in Aurora, described her as "really nice."
"She didn't speak much, but I know she owned a bar and she worked all the time," Spinale said. "She told me she did everything herself."
A sign posted on Fero's door Wednesday read, "Day sleeper, please don't ring the doorbell! Thank you." It was signed "The sleeper."
Jerry Richardson, who maintained an ATM at the bar, described Young Fero as "feisty."
"When she wanted that machine fixed, she would tell you about it," Richardson said.
Lynell Jonathan Hill, 24, and 27-year-old Joseph Nathanael Hill appeared in court in October and face first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery and arson charges stemming from the slayings early Wednesday morning. Another suspect in the case, 22-year-old Dexter Lewis Jr., stood silently in court that day as he was advised of the same charges. He had served nearly three years in prison and was on parole at the time of his arrest.