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Closing arguments set for Wednesday in trial of man accused of 1984 hammer attack

The jury is expected to get the case Wednesday following closing arguments.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — The prosecution and the defense both wrapped up their cases Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of beating a woman to death in Lakewood in January 1984.

Alex Christopher Ewing, 61, faces multiple counts of first-degree murder in the slaying of Patricia Smith, who was bludgeoned with an auto-body hammer and sexually assaulted in the townhome she shared with her daughter and grandchildren.

Prosecutors completed their case with more testimony about the DNA extracted from semen that was found at the scene – genetic material that was matched to Ewing in 2018.

Prosecutors have alleged that the presence of Ewing’s DNA on and around Smith’s body inextricably ties him to Smith’s murder. Defense attorneys have repeatedly elicited testimony that none of his DNA was found on the murder weapon or on other items the killer is believed to have touched.

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Prosecutors also brought in a witness who saw a man the afternoon of the killing in the area near Smith’s townhome.

Lisa Morris said she first shared the story with police shortly after Smith’s murder on Jan. 10, 1984. That afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., she told police she was looking out the window of her apartment in the 12900 block of West Maple Place – and she told the jury Tuesday that she still remembered it.

“I remember looking out that window and, well, just seeing a man I hadn’t seen before standing under it,” Morris testified. “That registered in my brain to this day.”

While she acknowledged she did not see the man’s face, she said he was white, with straight hair, a medium build, and stood “maybe about” 5-foot-9. She also said she thought the man was in his mid-20s.

At the time, Ewing was 23 and stood 5-foot-7, according to a Colorado driver license issued to him in 1983.

Asked why the man stood out, Morris said, “Because I hadn’t seen him before, and the stillness there just kind of registered. I just happened to look out and down and noticed someone I’d never seen before. For some reason it just registered with me. … a person motionless just standing there is what I remember seeing.”

She said the man was just staring off the east.

To the east, about 125 feet away, was the townhome where Smith had been murdered earlier that afternoon.

Morris was never asked if she recognized Ewing, who sat at the defense table in a tie and sport jacket, and she acknowledged under cross-examination that it was possible the man she saw was a resident of her complex she hadn’t met or someone visiting one of her neighbors.

The person, defense attorney Steven McCrohan asked, “Could be involved, could be just somebody waiting for a ride?”

“Could be,” Morris said.

Ewing was convicted last summer of the murders of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa, in Aurora six days after Smith’s killing. Judge Tamara Russell ruled that the jury could be told about the Bennett case because of the similarities between the two incidents. The jury was not told that Ewing was convicted in the Bennett case.

RELATED: Evidence from Bennett family slayings raises concern in separate murder case

After the prosecution rested, the defense called two witnesses – one a former DNA analyst, and one a longtime fingerprint examiner.

Both drove home points the defense has made repeatedly.

One is that testing of evidence back in the 1980s in the Bennett case failed to find DNA; testing done years later discovered it. Under cross-examination, the analyst, Kathren Dressel, said the technology advanced in later years to allow for the discovery of genetic profiles that previously could not be found.

The other is that Ewing was not the source of several dozen fingerprints from the two crime scenes that have never been identified. Under cross-examination, the analyst, Carolyn Barker, acknowledged that none of the unidentified prints were found on items the killer is believed to have handled. Prosecutors have suggested the assailant wore gloves in both attacks.

The case is expected to go to the jury after closing arguments, which are set for early afternoon Wednesday.

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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