Officials in Colorado said that newly analyzed DNA evidence solved two 1984 cold cases.
Patricia Smith, 50, was found beaten to death with a hammer in her home in Lakewood on Jan. 10, 1984. Six days later, Bruce and Debra Bennett were found beaten to death at their home in Aurora, along with their 7-year-old daughter Melissa.
The Bennett’s 3-year-old daughter was also sexually abused, shewas found the next day by her grandmother.
Officials said that evidence from both homicide cases was submitted shortly after the deaths but that was before DNA was widely used.
DNA evidence developed in 2010 after a cold case detective submitted DNA in the Smith case to compare it to the DNA collected in the Bennett case. The evidence indicated the person who killed Smith also killed the Bennetts, according to the Colorado Bureau of Corrections.
With the latest developments in DNA evidence on the table, an official in Nevada found a match with the DNA profile of the killer of Patricia Smith and the Bennetts when he entered in buccal swab results for an inmate, reported KDVR.
“In the following day, we recognized that a match was made between the buckle swab of convicted offender Mr. Ewing to the forensic samples from the Bennett case,” Colorado Bureau of Investigations Director John Camper said.
The swab was made possible by a law that enabled retroactive DNA testing of inmates.
Ewing Aready in Prison
Alexander Ewing, 57, is currently serving a 40-year prison term for attempting to kill a couple with an ax handle in their bedroom.
His sentence runs through 2037 but he’s eligible for parole in 2021.
Ewing has now been charged with three counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, three counts of felony murder, and other crimes in the deaths of the Bennett family.
He’s also been charged with first-degree murder after deliberation, three counts of felony murder, and two violent crime counts for the death of Smith.
He could face the death penalty in the Smith case, reported the Denver Post.
Families and Friends React
Smith’s family released a statement after the news was received.
“It is difficult to imagine how much more fulfilling our lives would have been if Patricia Smith’s life had not been taken from us. It’s more difficult to imagine her death remaining a mystery,” the family said, reported the Associated Press.
Vanessa Burnett, formerly Vanessa Bennett, told KUSA that she remembers little about the attack but noted she endured operations, physical therapy, and bullying after the deaths of her family.
“I was made fun of in school because my parents were killed,” she said. “I was made fun of because the hammer man or whatever you want to call it was going to come to my house and hurt everybody when I had slumber parties and stuff.”
Colorado officials have started the extradition process to return Ewing to Colorado from Nevada to go on trial, a process that could take months.
Friends of Smith and the Bennetts and police officers reacted to the news while officials said they hoped the findings would help start closure.
“This case haunted the officers who responded that night. It was a case that haunted the families and the victims to the core,” said Nick Metz, chief of police at the Aurora Police Department.
“I don’t believe anybody ever, with something like this ever really has closure,” Bennett family friend Randy McCoy added. “I just wanted to hear it, hear they found the guy, not just on the news or something, I wanted to be here and hear it.”