The Aurora Hammer Killer: The Case Then and Now

The Bennett Family sits smiling for a black and white portait.
The defense team for suspected killer Alex Ewing in July alleged the 1984 investigative team mishandled DNA evidence, but despite these assertions, the case will proceed to trial in two Colorado counties this fall. / BENNETT FAMILY.

Authorities in August announced a suspect had been charged for the 1984 cold case of the Aurora Hammer Killer, who attacked multiple families and individuals in the Denver metro area. Suspect and convicted felon Alex Ewing was extradited earlier this year from a Nevada corrections facility after DNA evidence linked him to genetic material left at the scene of the Bennett family murder.

Ewing is accused of the January 1984 murder of Bruce and Debra Bennett, the sexual assault and murder of 7-year-old Melissa Bennett and sexual assault and beating of 3-year-old Vanessa Bennett, who survived the assault with extensive and lasting injuries. Ewing is also accused of the rape and murder of Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood, among several other assaults in the metro area. A coroner for the Bennett case ruled the murder weapon was likely a hammer or similar blunt object.

The family was discovered Jan. 16, 1984 by Constance Bennett, the grandmother of Vanessa and Melissa. Vanessa spent the following years recovering slowly and painfully from her injuries but was unable to recall any details of the attack. The case remained unsolved for more than 30 years.

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Police in 2010 announced DNA testing of multiple 1984 “hammer attacks” in the metro area returned the same profile, indicating a single person likely committed all the attacks in a 12-day span.

Investigators in August 2018 announced a possible breakthrough in the case when Ewing was given a DNA test while serving time in Nevada for a similar Henderson assault, breaking into a house and beating a sleeping couple with an axe handle.

Authorities after the July preliminary hearing were required to drop eight charges against Ewing that were subject to the statute of limitations. Adding to intricacies of the case, Ewing is being tried for the assaults in two different Colorado jurisdictions. According to reports, Ewing is scheduled to return to court Oct. 8 in Arapahoe County and Nov. 6 in Jefferson County.

Investigators in August 2018 announced a possible breakthrough in the case when Ewing was given a DNA test while serving time in Nevada for a similar Henderson assault, breaking into a house and beating a sleeping couple with an axe handle.

Authorities after the July preliminary hearing were required to drop eight charges against Ewing that were subject to the statute of limitations. Adding to other intricacies with the case, Ewing is being tried for the assaults in two different Colorado jurisdictions. According to reports, Ewing is scheduled to return to court Oct. 8 in Arapahoe County and Nov. 6 in Jefferson County.

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