Alex Ewing murder trial: Defense says multiple attackers carried out Aurora familys 1984 slaying

One person could not have carried out the 1984 slaying of an Aurora family singlehandedly, a defense attorney for suspect Alex Ewing argued during opening statements in his murder trial Tuesday in Arapahoe County.

Ewing, 60, is standing trial for first-degree murder in the 1984 killings of the Bennett family, including parents Debra, 26, and Bruce, 27, as well as their 7-year-old daughter Melissa, who was also raped. The family’s youngest child, 3-year-old Vanessa Bennett, was severely attacked but survived.

Prosecutors allege Ewing used a hammer and a knife to slay the family, brutally bludgeoning his victims throughout the house. But public defender Stephen McCrohan said the evidence in the case — including fingerprints found in the home that don’t belong to Ewing or the family — points to more than one attacker.

McCrohan argued that the evidence of multiple attackers meant investigators ignored key evidence that points to another person, and said that undermines the prosecution’s entire case.

“One person really couldn’t have done this,” McCrohan said. “Not to say Alex Ewing and someone else did this, but to say that this simplistic version that the prosecution needs you to believe doesn’t even match what their own crime scene says.”

During his opening statements, 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner focused on two key pieces of evidence that tie Ewing to the case — DNA collected from a comforter and carpet at the crime scene matched with Ewing’s DNA, he told the jury.

“What that evidence will establish beyond a reasonable doubt is that this defendant is guilty of the murders of Bruce and Debra Bennett, and he is guilty of the violent rape and murder of 7-year-old Melissa Bennett,” he said. “We will ask you at the conclusion of this case to return a verdict that supports the truth, is supported by the evidence and the law: Find this defendant guilty of each and every single charge.”

The attack on the Bennett family on the night of Jan. 15, 1984, was one of a spree of similar attacks by what the so-called “Hammer Killer” in the Denver region during a 12-day span that raised alarm across the metro area. Also killed in the spree was 50-year-old Patricia Smith, who was attacked with a hammer on Jan. 10, 1984, at her Lakewood home.

Ewing is also charged with Smith’s murder, and that case is set for trial in October.

Investigators found Ewing’s DNA at both crime scenes, Kellner said Tuesday. McCrohan said that another person’s DNA was found on the handle of the hammer used to killed Smith, as well as on her clothing. He went on to suggest that authorities stopped testing evidence in the Bennett case for DNA after authorities found that evidence in the Smith case.

“All of these things could have been tested, should have been tested — weren’t tested,” he said.

In addition to the fatal attack on the Bennetts and Smith, a 28-year-old woman was bludgeoned nearly to death and sexually assaulted after she pulled into her Aurora garage on Jan. 9, 1984. Days earlier, on Jan. 4, 1984, someone slipped inside an Aurora home and used a hammer to beat a couple, who both survived.

Ewing has not been charged in connection with those cases.

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