People Magazine Investigates Recap for The Colorado Hammer Killer
Kim and Jim Haubenschild were a young married couple who lived in the small, seemingly safe town of Aurora. They were young, in love and just purchased a house together. Kim recalls the two of them being social and enjoying the night life.
Their lives were forever changed on January 4th, 1984. Kim recalls waking up in pain and seeing a person with a hammer at the foot of their bed. Both she and Jim were attacked…but it wasn’t until she called 911 that she realized she was bleeding. Jim had tried to catch the man, but no avail. He suffered a fractured skull.
Investigators who were on the scene say that there was no forced entry and that the doors were unlocked. A hammer was left behind and everything was dusted for fingerprints. None were found on the hammer, but there was potential evidence found by the entry/exit point.
Kim and Jim were interviewed about the attack, but Kim could only see that it was a person with a large build and it was nobody they knew. Investigators follow footprints and discover that Kim’s purse had been taken and abandoned outside.
January 10th, 1984
In Lakewood, Colorado, Chery Lettin’s mother Patricia Smith moved to the Lakewood area with Cherry and her family to help her get back on her feet.
On January 10th, 1984, Chery dropped Patricia off at a Park and Ride to go to work. That is the last time anyone every saw her alive. Both Chery and her daughter Amber recall seeing Patricia murdered by blunt force trauma. When the police arrive, they find a hammer by her body. There is also no sign of forced entry and her garage door was left open.
Further investigation finds that she was also sexually assaulted. Chery was questioned, as well as several other family members, friends and Chery’s ex-husband. However, they have no suspect, so everyone is a suspect.
January 9th, 1984
Donna Dixon Holm was living with her boyfriend (now husband) Ron and waiting for him to get home. Donna had come home from work and shopping when she was attacked in a similar fashion as the other victims. Ron discovered her the next day and rushed her to the hospital. She was in ICU and the crime scene was full of blood.
She eventually remembers waking up on the floor of the garage and trying to get into the house, falling the entire time. She initially thought she was drunk, but eventually found out the truth.
Aurora Attacked Again
Another attack occurs in Aurora, this time with Bruce and Debra Bennett failing to show up to work. An investigation shows Debra’s purse discarded in front of her house….and their dead bodies….and their children. Melissa was dead, but Vanessa was hanging on for dear life. A utility knife is found by the body of little Melissa and more evidence is found by Bruce’s body.
Their garage door was also open. Bruce’s family had been over for Melissa’s birthday and remember it being open as they left, but do not know if it was closed.
The Bennett Murders dominate the media and sends people in a frenzy of fear. Gun sales go up, people sleep wearing helmets and everyone takes extra precautions.
Before long, it is clear that all these cases are connected.
Vanessa survives her attack and recounts her attack and recovery.
The Investigation Begins
As the investigation continues, tips start rolling in. Fingerprints are checked to rule out suspects, since DNA wasn’t a big thing back then. An investigator and the FBI also are brought in, in hopes that they can help find the killer. They conclude he is probably, young, part of a construction crew and won’t stop until he is caught or killed.
January 27th, 1984–Kingman, Arizona
Roy Williams is attacked in a similar fashion as the previous victims. He tried to grab the killer, but no avail. He was unable to describe the killer, but a footprint is found that is eventually connected to a hitchhiker named Alex Ewing.
August 9, 1984–Henderson, Nevada
A bunch of inmates are being transferred. While they are on a bathroom break, one inmate makes a run for it….and it turns out to be Alex. Everyone is on high alert and determined to catch him. However, he seems to have vanished.
Meanwhile, everyone, especially the victims, are living in fear in Colorado.
Two days after the escape, there is a possible sighting of Alex. He is not found, but an hour after the sighting is called in, there is a call saying there had been another attack on Chris and Nancy Barry. Police rush to the house to help them and hopefully catch Alex. The Barry kids were thankfully unharmed.
Nancy says she heard a noise downstairs and when she went to investigate, there was a white male in her kitchen and when she went to go get her husband, they were both attacked. An investigation occurs, but they only find footprints.
Detective Brandt tries to have the blood analyzed, thinking they can find a blood type match. That doesn’t work, but they find a blonde pubic hair at one of the scenes and have that tested, knowing it might not bring back much, if anything.
The attacks mysteriously stopped and many theories were thrown around, including that the killer may have left town, died or been arrested for something unrelated.
Vanessa says she turned to drugs to ease the pain. This gets the attention of a detective, who decides to stop at nothing to catch the killer.
March 1st, 2001/2018
Aurora police are able to run DNA to try and catch the killer. There is no match, but in 2018, they are able to find a DNA match from the Bennett murders. The investigators from the beginning of the case couldn’t believe it at first, but are able to connect Alex to the crimes. He had been in prison since 1984 after he had escaped prison and been caught making a call on a payphone.
Alex was sentenced to 110 years in prison and found guilty on all but one charge. His DNA wasn’t collected due to the state of Nevada not collecting it in 1984.
Alex is questioned by the original investigators. It turns out that he is preparing to be released, but the investigators refused to let this happen. Several of them even come out of retirement to question him and make sure he never sees the light of day ever again. Alex’s parole is denied.
August 7, 2018
The victims are informed that Alex was found. It is time to put him on trial, but there is the worry that the passage of time could work against them. They work tirelessly to bring him to justice, despite several of the cases being out.
The trial finally begins and Alex’s past is brought to light. The case proves to be difficult due to evidence and DNA, but they are finally able to prove Alex was the killer based on what was found at the Bennett household. He is found guilty on all counts…and everyone finally has closure.
Alex is sentenced to 3 consecutive life terms.
Patricia Smith’s case against Alex ends in mistrial, but in 2022, he is sentenced to another life sentence in her murder.