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Suspect in hammer killings seeks more time to fight extradition to Colorado

Alex Christopher Ewing is the suspect in the killings of Patricia Louise Smith and Bruce, Debra and Melissa Bennett. He's appealing an order that he be transferred from Nevada to face charges in both cases.

The attorney for Alex Christopher Ewing – the Nevada inmate suspected in brutal 1984 hammer attacks that left four people dead in the Denver area – on Thursday requested more time to fight his extradition to Colorado, 9Wants to Know has learned.

Ewing’s attorney, Martin H. Wiener, asked for a 30-day extension, writing that he needed more time after his sole employee – who handles “all of the office typing” and “other duties” – was injured last week in a car crash. As a result, Wiener said he has been unable to complete research necessary to file his opening brief.

Nevada’s attorney general filed a response less than four hours later opposing the request.

It is not clear how soon a decision will be made on the request.

At issue is Ewing’s appeal of an order issued last Dec. 4 by Carson City Judge James Wilson that the 58-year-old be returned to Colorado to face charges in the Jan. 10, 1984, rape and murder of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood and the Jan. 16, 1984, attack that left Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa, dead.

Only the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Vanessa, survived.

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RELATED: Suspect in hammer murders files appeal of judge's ruling that he be sent to Colorado

The Nevada Supreme Court set an expedited schedule for Ewing’s appeal in January, and set next Monday as the deadline for his opening brief.

Thursday, Wiener asked that the deadline be extended until May 11, blaming the car crash involving his employee.

“She did not come to work for the next two days, and was unable to work during the intervening weekend,” Wiener wrote. “She reports that she finds it extremely difficult to sleep, and since the accident has experienced little relief from the headache and the pain and stiffness caused by the whiplash injury.”

Wiener also wrote that his office’s new computer system has been a source of “constant problems” since its installation March 1.

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Wiener filed his appeal challenging the extradition agreement between Colorado and Nevada and a judge’s ruling that Ewing was not entitled to a court-appointed attorney to fight the transfer.

Heather D. Procter, chief deputy attorney general for Nevada, wrote that while the she understood “that the basis for his extension are unforeseen circumstances out of his control,” there is no explanation why he needs an additional 30 days to complete research.

“While he cites the need to conduct research on the two issues presented in this matter, this court granted the expedited appeal on Jan. 7, 2019, and Ewing presents no reason why he could not complete the research well before the incidents described in this motion,” Procter wrote.

In July, Ewing was identified through DNA evidence as a suspect in the two cases.

Ewing has been behind bars in Nevada since 1984 for an attack there that left a Henderson man and his wife seriously hurt.

RELATED: Suspect in '84 hammer attacks claimed he hitchhiked out of Denver

RELATED: A timeline of the January 1984 hammer attacks in the Denver area

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 Lakewood 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.

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.

RELATED: Nevada inmate charged in deadly 1984 Lakewood hammer attack

RELATED: Man eyed in Colorado hammer attacks serving prison sentence in Nevada for similar crime

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 is not clear whether he could be.

According to court documents obtained by 9Wants to Know, 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.

Ewing told Arizona authorities he hitchhiked out of Colorado, riding with a trucker.

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, to give him and other inmates 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.

RELATED: She was the sole survivor of one of Colorado's most brutal crimes. Now, she's telling her story

It was Aug. 7 that 9Wants to Know first reported that Colorado investigators were looking at an inmate in another state as a possible suspect in the Smith and Bennett attacks. Three days later, authorities acknowledged they’d obtained arrest warrants for Ewing in both cases after matching his DNA to genetic material left at each of the crime scenes.

At that point, then-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed extradition warrants for Ewing issued by prosecutors in Jefferson and Arapahoe counties.

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

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