DNA Test Stunningly Accurate As Serial Hammer Slayer With Predicted Last Name Arrested

A Nevada inmate, Alexander Ewing, has been charged with murder in connection with the unsolved hammer-attack killings of 4 victims in Colorado in 1984.

August 10, 2018

Alexander Ewing [Nevada Dept. Of Corrections]

Alexander Ewing [Nevada Dept. Of Corrections]

By: Catherine Townsend

AURORA, CO — A Nevada prison inmate named Alex Christopher Ewing has been charged with murder in connection with the unsolved hammer-attack killings of four victims in Colorado in 1984, officials announced Friday.

Alexander Ewing [Nevada Dept. Of Corrections]

Alexander Ewing [Nevada Dept. Of Corrections]

Ewing, 57, has been in prison in Nevada since 1984. He was convicted of attempted murder after attacking a Henderson couple with an ax handle.


Police say that Ewing killed Bruce and Debra Bennett and their seven-year-old daughter, Melissa, and left the couple's other child, three-year-old Vanessa, clinging to life with serious head injuries. Both daughters were sexually assaulted.

The Bennetts were brutally bludgeoned with a hammer, and Bruce's throat was cut with a knife. The family murder was the last of four hammer attacks in the metro area over a 12-day period.

Patricia Smith [Lakewood Police]

Patricia Smith [Lakewood Police]

Ewing is also charged with the death of Patricia Louise Smith, 50, who was murdered in the Lakewood condominium she shared with her daughter and grandchildren.

The hunt for the hammer-wielding serial killer was the subject of an episode of Investigation Discovery's On The Case With Paula Zahn, called "Scattered Clues, Shattered Lives."

During the episode, ID interviewed the genealogist whose testing identified the killer as having the surname Ewing. Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick suggested "Ewing" as the perpetrator's last name after she compared Y chromosome data taken from the crime scene to DNA databases.

Aurora Police first revealed the results of that testing on the show. This was one of the first times this technique, which has made national headlines since the Golden State Killer was arrested using DNA databases, was publicly mentioned.

The DNA was found on the Bennetts' sheets, but no match was found in the FBI database — and the case went cold.

Police evidence photos of hammer used to kill Patricia Smith.

Police evidence photos of hammer used to kill Patricia Smith.

Zahn also interviewed pilot Ron Holm, whose live-in girlfriend, Donna Dixon, was attacked in January 1994. Police believe that the same attacker who killed the Bennett family may have targeted Dixon.

Holm described his horror as he came home from a flight and discovered Dixon curled up on a blood-soaked bed. Incredibly, the 28-year-old flight attendant was still alive.

Homicide Detective Marc Brandt believed that Dixon had been attacked as she exited her car. Investigators found a large ball-peen hammer in Dixon's car, which they determined was probably the weapon. Police said the crime was sexually motivated.

"I'm swinging the door open when the hammer hit me," she said."It's so hard to imagine that as you are stepping out of the car that the momentum knocks you right back. It happened that fast."

Dixon has no memory of anything after the first blow. When she woke up, she was naked on the garage floor. Confused and dazed, she somehow managed to stagger inside her home.

Crime scene photo of Donna Dixon’s garage [Investigation Discovery]

Crime scene photo of Donna Dixon’s garage [Investigation Discovery]

She says that she has "no idea" how she managed to crawl back inside the house, and also did not realize at the time that she had been sexually assaulted. Doctors would later state that they believed the icy temperatures slowed her blood loss — and saved her life.

The Bennett family [Investigation Discovery]

The Bennett family [Investigation Discovery]

Dixon had lost a tremendous amount of blood and suffered brain trauma. It took months for her to begin to learn to speak again — and Holm was right by her side. Holm and Dixon, who later married, have never stopped searching for a suspect.

Ewing, 57, is already serving a sentence of 8 to 40 years at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, according to prison spokeswoman Brooke Santina.

He is eligible for parole on July 1, 2021, and his sentence expires April 10, 2037.

Anyone who might have had contact with Alexander Ewing from 1983 to 1984 is asked to call the Aurora Police Department at (303) 739-6400 or the Lakewood Police Department at (303) 763-6800.

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Read more: 9 News, KDVR.com, 9News.com

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