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Jury selected for trial in 1984 killing of Bennett family

The trial of Alex Christopher Ewing is expected to last three weeks. He's accused of killing three members of an Aurora family.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — After a full day in a packed courtroom, prosecutors and defense attorneys settled on a jury to hear the case against a man in the notorious 1984 hammer murders of three members of an Aurora family.

Alex Christopher Ewing, 60, faces multiple counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa.

The jury of nine women and seven men includes four as-yet unnamed alternates.

Opening statements are scheduled Tuesday morning.

Although the murder weapon was never found, investigators believe the victims were killed with a hammer. The couple’s younger daughter, 3-year-old Vanessa, was severely beaten and critically injured but survived.

> Video above: DNA will be key in trial for man charged in 1984 killing of Bennett family

The jurors had already filled out an extensive questionnaire before they reported to the Arapahoe County Justice Center to be questioned in-person by prosecutors and defense attorneys, a process known as voir dire.

In the courtroom on Monday, prospective jurors were asked what TV shows they watched, whether they’d seen news coverage of the case and whether sitting through what is expected to be a trial of three weeks or longer would be an undue hardship.

Credit: Bennett Family
Bruce and Debra Bennett with their daughters, Vanessa, left, and Melissa.

Several people said they would have trouble paying bills if they missed time from work. Two parents said that they would have difficulty finding day care. One man said he had a medical procedure scheduled that will conflict with the trial.

But the question that prospective jurors heard over and over was this: Can you be fair and impartial?

Defense attorney Katherine Spengler asked jurors, for example, whether they would consider Ewing innocent, what they thought about DNA evidence, and what they would think about the fact he’s accused of a similar murder in Jefferson County.

Shortly before 5 p.m., District Judge Darren Vahle called the two sides to the bench for a discussion about individual jurors. That conversation was obscured by white noise pumped over the courtroom sound system.

After both sides dismissed a number of prospective jurors before accepting the panel about 5:20 p.m.

RELATED: DNA will be key in trial for man charged in 1984 killing of Bennett family

Ewing was serving a sentence in Nevada for a late-night ax-handle attack on a couple in Henderson when a DNA hit identified him as a possible suspect in the Bennett murders, which had long been cold.

After a 20-month extradition fight, he was returned to Colorado in February 2020 to face charges in this case and the killing of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood a week earlier.

Ewing faces multiple counts of first-degree murder in the killing of Smith, a 50-year-old interior decorator who was raped and beaten to death in the townhouse she shared with her daughter and grandchildren. That killing, which occurred six days before the Bennett murders, was carried out with an auto-body hammer.

Ewing is scheduled to go on trial in that case in October.

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

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