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Nevada Supreme Court denies appeal filed by hammer murder suspect, clearing the way for his extradition

Alex Christopher Ewing was identified through a DNA match. It is not clear how soon he could be transferred to Colorado to face charges.

NEVADA, USA — The Nevada Supreme Court – in a unanimous ruling – on Friday denied the appeal of a man suspected in a series of deadly 1984 hammer attacks in the Denver area, clearing the way for his extradition, 9Wants to Know has learned.

Alex Christopher Ewing, 59, faces multiple charges in the murders of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood and Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 8-year-old daughter, Melissa, in Aurora. Their 3-year-old daughter, Vanessa, suffered critical injuries in the attack on the family but survived.

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A DNA match in the summer of 2018 identified Ewing as the suspect in the Colorado cases, but he remained in a Nevada prison while fighting an extradition order.

“That’s such good news,” Connie Bennett, Bruce Bennett’s mother, said Friday.

“That is going to be the best Christmas present I have ever had,” said Chery Lettin, Patricia Smith’s daughter.

It was not clear Friday how soon he could be moved to Colorado.

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Ewing has been behind bars in Nevada since he was convicted of a middle-of-the-night ax-handle attack on a Henderson couple in August 1984.

Martin Wiener, the Reno attorney who assisted Ewing with his appeals, did not respond to a message left at his law office Friday afternoon.

“The families of his victims have been waiting for justice since 1984," said 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler. "This Nevada inmate has been fighting extradition since August 2018. It is finally time for him to step foot inside a courtroom in this Colorado community and receive the due process to which he is entitled. I am pleased that it appears we can begin moving forward with prosecution of this inmate for the horrible crimes we allege he committed here 35 years ago.”

A Nevada judge had signed an extradition order for Ewing last December, but he immediately appealed, arguing that he was entitled to a court-appointed attorney and that the extradition agreement between the two states was invalid.

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The court ruled against all of his claims, concluding “that no relief is warranted.” The order was signed by Chief Justice Mark Gibbons and the other six members of the Nevada Supreme Court.

Jefferson County prosecutors have formally charged Ewing with four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of committing a crime of violence in the murder of Smith at the condominium she shared with her daughter and grandchildren. Smith, 50, was raped and beaten to death with an auto body hammer after apparently being surprised by an intruder while eating lunch.

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One of the murder counts accuses Ewing of killing Smith “after deliberation.” Each of the three other murder counts alleges that he killed her while committing another crime – robbery, burglary and sexual assault.

Under Colorado’s felony murder rule, a person can be charged with first-degree murder for killing a person in the commission of another serious crime.

The two counts of committing a crime of violence are both sentencing enhancers.

Arapahoe County prosecutors have not formally charged Ewing in the Bennett case but have an arrest warrant obtained in 2002 that lists 13 separate charges:

  • Six counts of first-degree murder – two for each of the victims. One count in each case alleges the killings were carried out with deliberation, the other alleges they were committed as part of another felony.
  • One count of attempted first-degree murder for the attack on Vanessa Bennett.
  • Two counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual assault on a child for the attacks on the girls.
  • One count of assault.
  • One count of burglary.

In addition, prosecutors in that case listed five sentencing enhancers – all alleging that Ewing committed a crime of violence.

Although the murder weapon was not found at the scene, investigators believe the couple and their daughters were all beaten with a claw hammer. Bruce Bennett’s throat was also cut.

Ewing is also suspected in two other hammer attacks in Aurora that occurred earlier that month, including one in which a woman was sexually assaulted, beaten and left for dead. However, he has not been charged in those cases – and it appears he won’t be because the statute of limitations has run.

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According to court documents, Ewing was arrested in Kingman, Arizona, 11 days after the Bennett murders, accused of breaking into a home there and beating a man with a slab of granite. Because of overcrowded conditions at the jail in Kingman, Ewing was held for a time at a detention center in Utah.

On Aug. 9, 1984, Ewing was being transported from Utah back to Kingman for a court hearing when he ran off after jail deputies stopped the transport van in Henderson, Nevada, for a bathroom break. That night, Ewing broke into a home in Henderson, Nevada, and attacked a couple with an ax handle, savagely beating them. He was arrested two days later, convicted of multiple charges and has been in Nevada’s prison system ever since.

Contact 9NEWS reporter Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

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