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Suspect in hammer murders seeking another delay in fight to block extradition to Colorado

A judge ordered inmate Alex Christopher Ewing be sent to Colorado to face charges in two murder cases. His attorney now wants the deadline extended a second time.
Credit: Courtesy Bennett Family
Melissa Bennett, left, and her parents, Bruce and Debra Bennett, were murdered the night of Jan. 16, 1984. Only Vanessa Bennett, 3, survived.

AURORA, Colo. — Alex Christopher Ewing – the Nevada inmate wanted in two brutal 1984 hammer murders in the Denver area – is seeking another delay in his court fight to block his extradition to Colorado, 9Wants to Know has learned.

In documents filed late Monday night, attorney Martin H. Wiener sought an 11-day extension in the deadline to file an opening brief in his effort to block Ewing’s extradition to Colorado, where he faces charges for the 1984 murders of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood and Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa, in Aurora.

Ewing is also accused of savagely beating the Bennetts’ other daughter, 3-year-old Vanessa, who survived.

Wiener cited “extraordinary circumstances” in asking for the extension.

Ewing, who has been behind bars in Nevada for an ax-handle attack on a sleeping couple in Henderson that occurred eight months after the Colorado murders, was identified last summer as a suspect in the Smith and Bennett cases through DNA.

But after a Nevada judge ordered that Ewing be extradited to Colorado to face charges in the case here, he appealed the decision. Among his arguments is that the judge erred in determining that he was not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer for the extradition hearing.

Credit: Courtesy Reno Gazette Journal
Alex Christopher Ewing appears in court in October 2018.

Ewing’s opening brief was initially due April 15. But Wiener asked for an extension, arguing that his only employee had been in a car accident. The Nevada Supreme Court initially agreed to an extension until Monday.

At 9:04 p.m. Monday, according to court records, Wiener asked for 11 more days, citing his “work load” and acknowledging the fact the Nevada Supreme Court, in granting the previous extension, said similar requests in the future “will not be viewed favorably.”

At issue is Ewing’s appeal of an order issued last Dec. 4 by Carson City Judge James Wilson that the 58-year-old be returned to Colorado to face charges in the Jan. 10, 1984, rape and murder of Smith and the Jan. 16, 1984, attack on the Bennett family.

Once Ewing’s brief is filed, the Nevada Attorney General has 30 days to file a response. Then Ewing gets 30 more days to file a reply, meaning it could be late-July before the court takes up the appeal.

Wiener filed his appeal challenging the extradition agreement between Colorado and Nevada and a judge’s ruling that Ewing was not entitled to a court-appointed attorney to fight the transfer.

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.

Patricia Louise Smith

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.

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, 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.

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

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

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