Nevada prisoner faces 18 charges

A 57-year-old Nevada inmate has been charged with 18 counts of murder and attempted murder in an infamous series of brutal attacks a few days apart in 1984 in which three members of an Aurora family were killed in a home-invasion robbery, according to documents filed with the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s office.

Nevada Department of Corrections

Alex Christopher Ewing

Alex Christopher Ewing, 57, of Sacramento, Calif., is serving a 40-year prison term for two counts each of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Officials say the extradition process for Ewing has begun.

Ewing faces charges of first-degree murder after deliberation, three counts of felony murder and two violent crime counts in Jefferson County for the death of Patricia Smith in 1984, according to authorities currently in a press conference.

In the 1984 crimes, Ewing allegedly used a hammer to kill Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa, six days later in Aurora. Only one family member, then-3-year-old Vanessa, survived with severe facial injuries.

The horrific crimes have remained unsolved until dogged cold case detectives solved the case with the help of Colorado Bureau of Investigation crime analysts.

Ewing has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, three counts of felony murder, attempted murder after deliberation, two counts of sexual assault using physical force, first-degree assault with a deadly weapon, sexual assault of a child and first degree burglary with a weapon, according to Arapahoe County court documents.

He is also charged with sentence enhancers including three counts of committing a violent crime causing death, committing a violent crime causing serious bodily injury and two counts of using a weapon to cause a violent crime.

In 2010, the murder of 50-year-old grandmother Patricia Louise Smith was linked by DNA to the Bennett family murders. Smith’s murder is not part of the Arapahoe county filing.

In 2002, former District Attorney Jim Peters obtained a John Doe arrest warrant in the Bennett killings based on DNA collected from the Bennett home. Peters charged John Doe with 18 counts, including three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault, first-degree assault, two counts of sexual assault on a child and burglary.

Several months after the Aurora murders and rapes, Ewing entered a home in Kingman, Ariz. through an open door. He then nearly battered a man nearly to death with a boulder that weighed about 20 pounds, according to a Henderson police report.

Kingman police arrested Ewing on charges of attempted murder and transferred him out of state to another jail while he was awaiting trial. On Aug. 9, 1984, Ewing was in a Mojave County, Ariz. jail van riding through Henderson, Nev. with about 11 inmates heading to Kingman for a hearing when the van stopped at a Texaco gas station, the police report says.

Inmates were unchained for a gas station restroom break. Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, Ewing ran into a K-Mart and changed into red shorts with a white trim, according to a Henderson police report from 1984.

That night Ewing, armed with an ax handle, snuck through the open back door of a home at 739 Racetrack Road. Christopher Barry, then 34, and his wife Nancy, then 24, were asleep. Nancy got out of bed and went downstairs to prepare a bottle for their baby, who was crying. When she saw Ewing she ran to her bedroom screaming. As Christopher Barry awoke,l Ewing began beating him with the ax handle, the Henderson police report says.

Christopher Barry was knocked unconscious and would remain in a coma for a week with severe head injuries, according to a 1984 Las Vegas Journal-Review article. Nancy Barry tried to block the blows to her husband. In the process both her wrists and her arm were broken, the article said.

Nancy Barry managed to call 911 while Ewing continued hitting her and her husband. The dispatcher could hear thumps in the background during the call, the Henderson police report says. Nancy Barry climbed under her bed to escape. But Ewing kept beating her in the head until she acted like she was dead, the police report says.

A massive helicopter and foot search ensued for Ewing, who fled on foot toward Lake Mead. Two days after he attacked the Barry family, National Park Service rangers spotted Ewing making a phone call. When he saw them, Ewing took off running. A ranger caught up with Ewing and arrested him, the Henderson police report says.

An 8th District Court jury in Las Vegas convicted Ewing in 1985, the Review-Journal reported at the time.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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