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Judge declares mistrial for man charged in 1984 Lakewood killing

He was on trial for the 1984 killing of Patricia Smith in Lakewood.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — A judge in Jefferson County declared a mistrial in the trial for Alex Ewing just months after an Arapahoe County jury convicted him in connection with the January 1984 killing of three members of the Bennett family in Aurora.

Ewing's second trial began this week in connection with a separate cold case killing that happened in Lakewood within days of when the Bennett family was killed.

Ewing, 61, faces multiple counts of first-degree murder in the slaying of Patricia Louise Smith, an interior decorator who was beaten to death with a hammer in the townhouse she shared with her daughter and grandchildren. 

RELATED: Prosecution, defense point to DNA in 1984 murder case, but have different takes on its meaning

Opening statements were given Tuesday in that trial in Jefferson County. On Wednesday morning, the judge declared a mistrial after the defense team filed a motion arguing that Ewing was not competent to stand trial.

That motion remains sealed, meaning it can't be publicly accessed at this time.

Ewing will now be evaluated to determine the next steps in the case.

Credit: Lakewood police
Patricia Louise Smith in an undated family photo.

Smith, 50, was surprised at home as she ate a lunchtime hamburger on Jan. 10, 1984 – six days before the murders in Aurora of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa. The Bennetts were beaten to death with a hammer. The couple’s younger daughter, then-3-year-old Vanessa, suffered critical injuries but survived.

An Arapahoe County jury found Ewing guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the Bennett killings, and the judge in the case imposed three consecutive life sentences – meaning he will die in prison.

RELATED: Man found guilty in 1984 hammer attacks is sentenced to life in prison – three times

At the time Ewing was identified as a suspect in the Bennett and Smith cases, he was serving a 110-year sentence for a late-night ax handle attack on a couple in Henderson, Nevada, that occurred about seven months after the Colorado murders.

The DNA hit came after Nevada prison officials started taking saliva from inmates and adding their genetic profiles to the FBI’s national database, known as CODIS. It was there that it was matched first to the Bennett murders and then to Smith’s killing.

>> Read updates in the case at BLAME Podcast.

Over 12 days in January 1984, someone with a hammer unleashed unspeakable violence in two quiet Denver suburbs — killing four people, beating two others so savagely it was shocking they survived and raping several of his victims.

The story of the assaults, 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 9Wants to Know investigative podcast.

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