DENVER — Bruce Bennett, 27, Debra Bennett, 26, and their two children, Melissa, 7, and Vanessa, 3, resided in a quiet Aurora neighborhood in 1984. Bennett worked at a family-owned furniture store and had training as an air traffic controller.
On Jan. 16, 1984, between midnight and 6:00 a.m., an intruder entered the Bennett home and viciously attacked the entire family. Bennett had been slashed several times and hit on the head with a hammer. He repeatedly crawled up the stairs to try to save his family; however, he was unsuccessful.
Debra Bennett and Melissa were bludgeoned and stabbed. Melissa was also sexually assaulted. The killer crushed Vanessa’s jaw, sending jagged bones into her windpipe. However, she survived the attack.
Bennett’s mother, Constance Bennett, discovered her son’s body the following day and immediately called the police.
A massive investigation started but produced no leads in solving the case. There were no signs of forced entry or an apparent motive for the killings. The killer took nothing from the house except the knife used to slash Bennett and a purse discarded outside.
Six days before the deadly Bennett home invasion, on Jan. 10, 1984, Patricia Smith, 50, was sexually assaulted and murdered in her Lakewood townhome sometime in the afternoon. Her daughter and grandchildren, who resided with Smith, found her body. It had been staged to look like one laying in a casket – she was flat on her back with her hands and arms carefully crossed over her chest. Her jeans were pulled down, and her boots were still on her feet. A hammer was lying nearby.
Six days before Patrica Smith’s murder, on Jan.4, 1984, a man nearly beat to death James and Kimberly Haubenschild in their Aurora home. The weapon used was a hammer. Haubenschild suffered a fractured skull, and his wife had a concussion. Both survived.
That same day, a man used a hammer to attack flight attendant Donna Dixon in the garage of her Aurora home, leaving her in a coma. Dixon also survived.
The attacks ended with the Bennett family, and all the attacks appeared to be at random. Whoever the killer was, he had no problem attacking innocent children.
In 2002, based on DNA, investigators charged John Doe with 18 counts, including three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault, first-degree assault, and two counts of sexual assault on a child and burglary.
In 2010, DNA officially tied The Bennett family murder and the murder of Patricia Smith together. However, the DNA match had not been linked to a specific person.
Update: Alex Christopher Ewing was found guilty in August 2021 on all counts in the 1984 beating deaths of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their 7-year-old daughter, Melissa. He was later found guilty in April 2022 for Patricia Smith’s murder.