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Alleged Hammer Killer appears in Jefferson County court as victim’s family watches

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A man suspected of using a hammer to bludgeon four people to death in Colorado was advised Tuesday of the charges he faces more than three decades after the alleged crimes.

Alexander Christopher Ewing, also known as the Hammer Killer, appeared in Jefferson County District Court where he was read the six felony charges he faces there, including four counts of first-degree murder in connection to the killing of 50-year-old Patricia Smith. Ewing is also facing murder charges in Arapahoe County District Court in connection with the deaths of 27-year-old Bruce Bennett, his wife, 26-year-old Debra Bennet and their daughter, Melissa, 7.

Ewing appeared in a red jail uniform, with his hands shackled. A small man starting to bald, Ewing spoke only briefly in single-word answers to questions from the judge.

Smith’s family members sat in the front row and wiped away tears as Jefferson County Chief Deputy District Attorney Bob Weiner read through the charges Ewing faced.

Ewing, 59, had been imprisoned in Nevada since 1985 on an attempted murder conviction and fought his extradition to Colorado.

Investigators could not connect Ewing to the four 1984 Colorado killings until 2018 when DNA evidence tied him to the crimes. Colorado investigators had submitted DNA found at the scenes to a national database years ago, but the samples didn’t match anything until Nevada officials uploaded a sample from Ewing in the summer of 2018.

Ewing is suspected of raping and killing Smith in her Lakewood apartment and, six days later, killing the Bennetts in Aurora. The Bennett’s youngest daughter, Vanessa, who was 3 years old at the time, survived.

Ewing is eligible for the death penalty in both Colorado cases, though neither district attorney has made a decision whether to pursue it.

Colorado lawmakers last month passed a bill abolishing the death penalty, but the ban would only affect cases filed on or after July 1. The governor has yet to sign the bill, though he is expected to do so.

Ewing’s public defender, Katherine Spengler, argued multiple times during the court hearing Tuesday that Ewing should not face the death penalty because Colorado’s capital punishment law is unconstitutional. Prosecutors do not have to decide whether to pursue execution until after Ewing is arraigned.

Ewing’s preliminary hearing — where a judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to let the case continue in court — is scheduled for May 22.

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