Nevada’s highest court on Monday denied the latest effort to delay the extradition of a man suspected of murdering four people with a hammer in 1984 in the Denver area, 9Wants to Know has learned.
Alex Christopher Ewing, serving a 110-year sentence in Nevada for a brutal assault there, was linked by DNA to the Jan. 10, 1984, slaying of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood and the murders six days later of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa, in Aurora. The couple’s other daughter, then-3-year-old Vanessa, was left for dead with horrific head injuries.
For more than 34 years investigators had no suspect. Then, in July 2018, Ewing’s DNA was added to the FBI’s national genetic database, which linked it to DNA left at the two Colorado crime scenes.
More than 16 months after that connection was made, he remains in Nevada after a series of delays as his attorney maneuvered to slow down or stop the process of moving him to Colorado to face charges.
Most recently, the Nevada Supreme Court denied Ewing’s appeal of an extradition order signed in December 2018 by a district judge in Carson City.
Monday’s ruling came after Ewing’s attorney sought to stay that order while he filed a petition for a rehearing.
It is not clear how soon he could be moved – the earliest the supreme court’s denial of his appeal could become final is Dec. 17, and he can’t be transferred until at least then. That deadline could be pushed back if Ewing’s attorney files a petition for a re-hearing, which would be due by Dec. 10.
Ewing’s attorney could also appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ewing’s attorney, Martin Wiener, has not responded to multiple requests for comment. However, he has said in the past that he would fight Ewing’s extradition because he could face the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder in Colorado.
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.
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.
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.
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 a transport van in Henderson, Nevada, for a bathroom break. That night, Ewing broke into a home in Henderson 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-871-1862.
>> The story of these hammer murders, the search for a killer, and the anxiety that gripped the survivors and altered life in the Denver metro area is the subject of a new 9Wants to Know investigative podcast.
“BLAME: The Fear All These Years” is available at Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app.
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