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Convicted Murderer Dubbed 'Hammer Killer' Found Guilty Of 1984 Rape And Murder Of Patricia Smith
Alex Ewing had already received three life sentences last summer after his conviction for brutally raping and murdering an entire family just days after he killed Patricia Smith in 1984.
A violent Colorado man dubbed the “Hammer Killer” has been found guilty of a woman’s 1984 rape and murder.
Convicted murderer Alex Christopher Ewing, 61, was found guilty on Thursday for the murder of Patricia Smith, 50, according to NBC affiliate KUSA.
“We truly appreciate the jury’s service in this difficult case, and our thoughts are with the family of Patricia Smith as they finally see justice for her horrific murder over three decades ago," Colorado First Judicial District Attorney’s Office said in a statement to Oxygen.com. "Today’s verdict is the result of significant efforts and dedication by law enforcement, scientists, the witnesses who testified, and our staff, without whom this outcome would not have been possible.”
As previously reported, Smith was found dead on Jan. 10, 1984, in the Lakewood condo she shared with her daughter and grandchildren just west of Denver, Colorado. She had been raped and then beaten to death with a hammer.
Ewing was connected to Smith’s murder as well as the 1984 murders of the Bennett family by DNA in 2018. At that time, Ewing was serving a 110-year sentence for an unrelated attack in Henderson, Nevada; he fought extradition for two years before finally being transferred to Colorado in 2020 to face in both cases.
An Arapahoe County jury in August found Ewing guilty of the violent murders of the Bennett family, who were killed just six days after Patricia Smith. He was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in that case.
Bruce Bennett, 27, and Debra Bennett, 26, were beaten to death with a claw hammer in the Aurora home they shared with their two young daughters. Their eldest daughter, Melissa, 7, was raped and beaten to death. The youngest child, age 3, was also sexually assaulted and beaten but narrowly survived the attack despite sustaining life-threatening injuries.
District Judge Tamara Russell allowed the jury in Ewing's trial for Smith's murder to hear about the Bennett killings after prosecutors argued that it provided insight into the killer's modus operandi.
Thursday’s guilty verdict came after a week-long trial that largely centered around semen collected from Smith’s body, nearby carpeting and on a blanket used to cover her body, according to KUSA. Ewing’s defense expressed doubt over how authorities had handled the physical evidence back in 1984, years before DNA testing.
They also raised questions about the fact that Ewing’s DNA was not found on other items with which one might expect the killer to come into physical contact, including the murder weapon and Smith’s boots and purse, KUSA reported. Prosecutors remedied the defense’s concerns by pointing out that the killer could have worn gloves.
Ultimately, the jury convicted Ewing of first-degree murder, felony murder-robbery, and felony murder-sexual assault in Smith's case.
The Smith and Bennett murders had remained unsolved for years until 2013, when Nevada state law began to require that felons — regardless of when they committed their crimes — submit their DNA to the CODIS system.
As previously reported, Ewing is not expected to be tried in several other attacks he is suspected of carrying out in the Denver area around the same time as the Smith and Bennett murders. One of those incidents was a home invasion on Jan 4. 1984, during which a man nearly beat a sleeping couple to death with a hammer.
Five days after that attack, Smith, a flight attendant, was viciously beaten, raped and left for dead in her own garage. She was found, deceased, the following day.
Less than a week later, Ewing murdered the Bennett family.
“I have seen all kinds of evil and wickedness … nothing compares to the level of depravity that your actions show in this case,” said Judge Darren Vahle at Ewing's sentencing in August for the Bennett murders. “There is no punishment that is too harsh for you."
"I will do everything in my power to make sure you never draw a free breath ever again,” he added.
Shortly after the Bennett murders, authorities arrested Ewing in Kingman, Arizona, for breaking into a man’s home and beating him with a slab of granite. That victim survived the attack.
Due to overcrowding in Arizona, Ewing was held at a detention center in Utah before his trial.
In August 1984, Ewing was en route back to Arizona when the deputies transporting him stopped in Henderson, Nevada for a restroom break and he escaped. That very night, Ewing broke into yet another home in Nevada and beat a couple with an ax handle, nearly killing them.
He was arrested two days later and spent the next three decades in Nevada’s prison system before DNA connected him to the Smith and Bennett murders in 2018.
Ewing's conviction in the Smith case comes after a mistrial was declared during an earlier court hearing in October when the defense filed a motion for a competency hearing. It was unclear what actions precipitated the unexpected ruling; Ewing was found competent to stand trial one month later.
Ewing is scheduled to be sentenced for Smith’s murder on April 12.