The very famous, more than three decades old case of Bennet family murders has recently been in the news. This horrific and cold case of Aurora, Colorado has kept everyone wondering about the culprit while this horrendous incident kept sending chills to the bones of people all around the world.

Let us have a look at this unforgettable case of the Bennet family murders.

The Deadly Night of Incident For Bennet Family

On the night of January 16th, 1984 a gruesome discovery was made at a house on 16300 East Center Drive, Aurora. The bludgeoned bodies of husband and wife, Bruce and Debra Bennett, were discovered and it soon became evident that both were attacked with a knife and beaten to death. Later autopsies revealed that the Bennett’s had died due to blunt force trauma and that their attacker had likely used a hammer.

28-year-old Bruce Bennett had jumped into action when the attacker entered the family home and a struggle broke out between the two as Bennett attempted to protect his family. Evidence of wounds caused by a blade revealed that Bruce attempted to defend himself as the intruder swiped and slashed at him with a knife. His attacker slit his throat before eventually delivering a final fatal blow with a hammer.

The killer then ascended the staircase and entered the couple’s bedroom where he attacked Bruce’s 26 years old wife, Debra, simultaneously he raped and killed her. He then found the couple’s oldest daughter, 7 year old Melissa, who tragically suffered the same terrible fate as her mother. The family had been celebrating Melissa’s birthday that night.

The couple’s youngest daughter, 3-year-old Vanessa, was also attacked by the hammer-wielding assailant. The hammer struck her in the jaw, shattering the bone which splintered in an explosion of small fragments that punctured her windpipe. He continued to attack the child causing severe injuries, but the 3 years old held on to her life and was alive the next morning when she was discovered by her grandmother. 

The Sole Survivor

Medical professionals weren’t sure if the hammer attack would leave Vanessa with permanent brain damage or not, but the girl’s family held on to the hope that she would make a full recovery. The child’s skull was caved in on the right side of her forehead and a metal plate was inserted to reshape the skull.

She suffered severe injuries to her head, jaw, and neck. She was also left with a shattered pelvis and fell into a coma. With time, multiple surgeries, and the support of her extended family, Vanessa began to recover from her physical injuries but living a normal life after losing both her parents to a murderer who had yet to be captured and convicted made childhood difficult. The other kids at school would tease her, telling her “the hammer man” was going to come and finish her off. 

Although she had no memory of the attack, what happened that night in 1984. Her head was constantly swimming with thoughts of her parents. Why did they have to get murdered? Why was she the lone survivor?  Not only was she left with physical injuries and scars as a reminder of the attack, but she was also left with ADHD, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. 

The Investigation and Verdict on Bennet Family Murders

Police later linked the murder of the Bennett family with another rape and murder that happened just less than a week before. The previous week, on the 10th of January, a woman in her fifties named Patricia Smith had also been murdered in her own home in a townhouse in Green Mountain, Lakewood, which is just a 25 minutes drive from Bennet’s home in Aurora.

The police found her posed with her arms crossed over her chest as if she was in a coffin. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and the murder weapon? A hammer. 

In fact, there was a string of unsolved crimes in the area that took place just days apart from each other. Sadly, technology was not as advanced in the mid-eighties as it is today, and the case went cold, remaining that way for over 30 years.

Investigators did not forget about the hammer murders, however, nor did the town of Aurora. For years the authorities and true crime sleuths never gave up trying to identify the sick individual responsible for the murders and assaults that happened that year.

Investigators had collected and stored the killer DNA from the crime scene back in 1984 and since they did not know the hammer killers identity at the time issued a warrant for the arrest of “John Doe” on three counts of murder, attempted murder, felony murder, two counts of sexual assault, and two counts of child sexual assault in the hope that technology in the future could aid in identifying the assailant.

The Investigation kept ongoing. Vanessa, after a wait of 3 decades received a call from the Aurora sheriff’s department informing her that her parent’s killer had been identified as 57-year-old Alexander Christopher Ewing.

Alexander was not identified as a suspect until a DNA hit in July 2018 linked him to semen left at the crime scene. Ewing’s DNA profile was entered into CODIS (the FBI’s database) in 2018 and his profile was matched to the DNA found at the crime scenes of both the Bennett family and Patricia Smith.

Prosecutors brought their case against Alex Christopher Ewing to a close using a detailed walkthrough of genetic evidence to show that his DNA was found inside the home where three members of an Aurora family were murdered in January 1984.

He faced six counts of first-degree murder. Yvonne “Missy” Woods, a DNA analyst at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), was the last of 25 prosecution witnesses called to the stand in Ewing’s trial on multiple counts of first-degree murder in the hammer killings of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their daughter, Melissa.

Alexander Christopher Ewing is now the behind bars, serving 40 years for two counts of attempted murder in the state of Nevada.

Categories: Case Studies


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