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Judge sentences man convicted in 1984 hammer murder

Now serving four consecutive life terms, Alex Ewing is expected to die in prison.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colorado — After an emotional hearing, a judge on Tuesday gave Alex Ewing the only sentence she could in the 1984 murder of interior decorator Patricia Smith – life behind bars with parole possible after 20 years.

But Jefferson County District Judge Tamara Russell stacked that sentence on top of back-to-back-to-back life terms Ewing is already serving after his conviction last year in the murders of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter Melissa.

The Bennetts were killed six days after Smith was sexually assaulted and beaten to death with an auto-body hammer.

Barring successful appeals or some other extraordinary development, Ewing, 61, will die in prison for the violence he unleashed in January 1984.

RELATED: Jefferson County jury convicts Alex Ewing in 1984 murder of Patricia Smith

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That sentence came after a 55-minute hearing in which two of Smith’s children and two of her grandchildren tried to describe the pain of the loss, the toll of waiting 34 years for a suspect to be identified by a DNA match and the emotional turmoil of the road to a conviction.

“I dream of the day where evil is a word removed from our dictionary, a day when we take care of each other so evil has no chance to feed, to breathe,” Smith’s granddaughter, Amber Reese, said after rising to speak first at the hearing. “For what other purpose does it have than to teach us to better hold our loved ones close, to hold fast to every moment, to cherish every hug, smile, laugh?”

She was 5 years old the day her grandmother was murdered.

“Why do we need such a reminder?” she asked. “The monster under the bed to send us into our mother’s arms? I don’t know why. I only know the boogeyman is real, Evil is real.”

Smith, 50, was surprised at home as she ate a hamburger by an assailant who is believed to have slipped in through an open garage door and an unlocked front door.

Amber’s brother, Joe Reese, was 3 the day of the murder.

“Jan. 10, 1984 – one of my very first memories as a child,” Joe Reese said. “I was scared and crying at a neighbor’s house in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people. Something most children need in scary times – and something my 10-year-old still uses to this day – is a security blanket.

“Mine would never be used again as Alex Ewing used it to cover my grandmother’s punctured skull after he raped and murdered her.”

Both of them were with their mother, Chery Lettin, when they arrived home to discover Smith’s body on the floor in the living room, a Winnie the Pooh blanket covering her head.

The Ewing and Smith cases were intertwined from the beginning. In both cases, the assailant is believed to have entered through an open garage door and attacked with a hammer. He sexually assaulted Smith and Melissa Bennett, leaving them partially clothed on the floor with blankets covering their head.

In 2018, Ewing’s genetic profile was matched to DNA extracted from the semen left at both crime scenes. At the time, he was behind bars in Nevada, serving a 110-year sentence for an ax-handle attack on a couple in Henderson.

Ewing has been locked up for all but 13 days since the Bennett murders.

When she spoke to the court Tuesday, Lettin minced no words.

“It was not a human that took my mother’s life,” she said. “It was an evil monster that does not deserve to walk this earth. And because he walked this earth, my mother no longer does

“Being pure evil, this monster could never know what it’s like to lose a mother, a best friend, a confidant, the light of your life.”

Lettin said her focus will now shift to celebrating her mother’s life instead of thinking about her killer.

“After today, we will neither think, or speak, of that evil monster again. It is over. It is over.”

Also speaking was another of Smith’s children, her son, Barry Smith.

He told the judge that his own children have a hard time understanding how the murder has affected him.

“You know – little things, judge,” he said. “To this day, I can’t go to a hardware store and I can’t go down an aisle with hammers.”

Ewing did not speak, though one of his attorneys, Stephen McCrohan, said he maintains his innocence and plans to appeal.

McCrohan said that Ewing “suffered horribly as a child,” though he did not get into specifics. He also said that Ewing, who had been behind bars in Nevada since a 1984 attack on a Henderson couple, had been a “remarkable inmate” and had “been assaulted a number of times” behind bars.

“He is a lot more than how he’s being characterized or even certainly more than the actions that occurred in 1984,” McCrohan said.

Before handing down the sentence, Russell noted that she had “no discretion for this sentencing.” The mandatory term was prescribed by Colorado law in place when Smith was killed.

At 11:01 a.m., 56 minutes after it started, the hearing ended when a sheriff’s deputy handcuffed Ewing and led him out of the courtroom.

Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

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