The Nevada inmate suspected in a series of 1984 hammer murders has appealed a judge’s order that he be transferred to Colorado to face charges in those cases, 9Wants to Know has learned.

Alex Christopher Ewing, 58, faces multiple charges in the Jan. 10, 1984, rape and murder of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood and the Jan. 16, 1984, killings of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their daughter, Melissa, in Aurora. The couple’s other daughter, Vanessa, survived horrific injuries in the attack.

On Dec. 3, a judge in Carson City ordered that Ewing be extradited to Colorado to face charges in those two cases.

In his notice of appeal, obtained by 9Wants to Know, Ewing’s attorney, Martin Wiener of Reno, asked the Nevada Supreme Court to overturn Judge James Wilson’s ruling that the suspect 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 – 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 appeal was filed in Carson City District Court. As of Tuesday, the appeal had not been forwarded to the Nevada Supreme Court.

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

A DNA match earlier this summer led investigators to name Ewing as a suspect the Smith and Bennett cases.

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.

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.

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.

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.

At that point, 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.