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Nevada high court blocks latest effort by suspect in hammer killings to stop extradition

Alex Christopher Ewing's attorney now plans to appeal to the nation's highest court. Barring a stay, he could be transferred here as soon as Feb. 19.

NEVADA, USA — The Nevada Supreme Court on Friday dealt another blow to the suspect in four notorious 1984 hammer murders in the Denver area, denying his request for another hearing on his appeal of an order that he be extradited to Colorado, 9Wants to Know has learned.

The order is not scheduled to take effect until Feb. 19 – the earliest day Alex Christopher Ewing could be extradited.

However, his attorney has already signaled that he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court – a process that may not be resolved for months – and it’s likely he’ll ask Nevada’s highest court to keep Ewing in prison there during that process.

Ewing, 59, faces multiple charges in the Jan. 10, 1984, murder of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood and the Jan. 16, 1984, murder of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their daughter, Melissa, in Aurora.

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

Ewing was first identified as a suspect in the Smith and Bennett homicides after a DNA match in the summer of 2018. He has been fighting extradition to Colorado ever since.

The Nevada Supreme Court had already denied his appeal of an extradition order in a ruling Nov. 22. Friday’s order, signed by all seven of the court’s justices, was brief: “Rehearing denied.”

RELATED: Nevada Supreme Court denies appeal filed by hammer murder suspect, clearing the way for his extradition

Ewing’s attorney has asserted that the extradition order is invalid because he was not given a court-appointed lawyer during the process. The lawyer, Martin Wiener, has further alleged that Nevada law requires that he finish his sentence there before he could serve any sentence in Colorado, and as a result the extradition agreement between the two states contradicts the law.

Ewing has been behind bars in Nevada since an ax-handle attack on a Henderson couple in August 1984 – seven months after the killings in Colorado.

RELATED: Suspect in hammer murders asks Nevada Supreme Court to overturn order extraditing him to Colorado

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 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.

RELATED: Nevada inmate charged in deadly 1984 Lakewood hammer attack

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.

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

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 appears he won’t be because the statute of limitations has run.

According to court documents obtained by 9Wants to Know, Ewing was arrested in Kingman, Ariz., 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 a transport van in Henderson, Nevada, for a bathroom break. That night, Ewing broke into a home in Henderson, Nev., 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: Suspect in '84 hammer attacks claimed he hitchhiked out of Denver

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

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