A Nevada inmate wanted in two deadly 1984 hammer attacks in the Denver area has lost a bid to slow down his appeal of an extradition order – but it will still be months before he could be transferred to Colorado, 9Wants to Know has learned.

Alex Christopher Ewing, 58, filed appeals of extradition orders signed Dec. 4 by a Carson City judge requiring him to be moved to Colorado, where he’s wanted on multiple charges in Jefferson and Arapahoe counties.

In July, Ewing was identified through DNA evidence as a suspect in the rape and murder of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood and the attack in Aurora that left Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa, dead. The couple’s other daughter, 3-year-old Vanessa, suffered horrible injuries but survived.

Judge James Wilson signed extradition orders for Ewing in both cases.

In his appeal, Ewing’s attorney, Marty Wiener, challenged Wilson’s conclusion that the inmate was not entitled to an appointed lawyer during the extradition hearing. In addition, Wiener suggested that the extradition documents were not “in order” – a requirement for them to be valid – because they suggest Ewing’s transfer to Colorado would be “temporary” although they also call for him to complete any sentence here before being returned to Nevada.

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Ewing is facing multiple counts of first-degree murder in the Colorado slayings – a conviction on any of them would mean a minimum sentence of life in prison without parole. He could also face the death penalty.

The Nevada Attorney General asked for an expedited appeals schedule – something Ewing’s lawyer opposed. In the end, the Nevada Supreme Court consolidating the two appeals into one case and set a deadline of April 15 for Ewing’s appeal documents to be filed. The Nevada Attorney General would then have 30 days to file an answer, and Ewing would have 30 days after that to file a reply.

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In its ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court noted that the state “may speed the briefing process by filing its answering brief before the due date for that document.”

Ewing has been behind bars in Nevada since 1984 for an attack there that left a Henderson man and his wife seriously hurt.

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 Lakewood 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.

Suspect in court
Alex Christopher Ewing appears in a Nevada courtroom on Oct. 2, 2018.
Reno Gazette Journal

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.

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.

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.

Alex Christopher Ewing mug 08 EDIT_1533768780482.jpg.jpg

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.

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Ewing told Arizona authorities he hitchhiked out of Colorado, riding with a trucker.

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, to give him and other inmates a bathroom break.  That night, Ewing broke into a home in Henderson, Nevada, 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 cases after matching his DNA to genetic material left at each of the crime scenes.

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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: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.