Nevada’s attorney general has urged the state’s highest court to reject an effort by Alex Christopher Ewing – suspected of 1984 hammer attacks that left four dead in the Denver area – to stop his extradition to Colorado.

Ewing, an inmate in Nevada’s prison system, was identified last summer as a suspect in the killings after a DNA test.

He faces numerous charges in the January 1984 rape and murder of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood and the slayings six days later of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa, in Aurora.

In December, a judge in Nevada ordered that Ewing be transferred to Colorado to face charges. He is fighting extradition, arguing that judge improperly denied him a court-appointed attorney and that the extradition contract between the two states is not valid.

Ewing appealed the extradition order to the Nevada Supreme Court.

In a brief filed this week, Heather Proctor, Nevada’s chief deputy attorney general, argued that Ewing was wrong on both counts – that he failed “to demonstrate a constitutional right to the appointment of counsel in an extradition proceeding,” and that he has “no standing” to challenge the extradition agreement.

Ewing now has 30 days to file a reply. After that, the state’s high court will decide how to proceed and could give both sides the chance to make oral arguments before rendering a decision.

Ewing has been behind bars in Nevada for an ax-handle attack on a sleeping couple in Henderson, Nevada, that occurred eight months after the Colorado murders.

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Jefferson County prosecutors have formally charged Ewing with four counts of first-degree murder in the slaying 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.

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, the couple’s then-3-year-old daughter who was savagely beaten but survived.
  • 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.

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.

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.

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, 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.

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 Colorado 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: or 303-871-1862.

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