“Hammer Killer” locked away for another life sentence for Patricia Smith murder

Patricia Smith’s family members rarely referred to her killer by name at his sentencing hearing Tuesday, instead choosing to call the murderer a “vile, vicious, evil monster” and “boogeyman.”

“It was not a human that took my mother’s life,” Chery Lettin said. “It was an evil monster who does not deserve to walk this Earth.”

Lettin was joined by three other family members in addressing First Judicial District Judge Tamara Russell during the sentencing of Alex Ewing, convicted last week of first-degree murder and two counts of felony murder in the 1984 killing of 50-year-old Smith at her Lakewood home during a spree of Denver-area violence attributed to the so-called “Hammer Killer.”

Amber Reese, Smith’s granddaughter and Lettin’s daughter, spoke of hoping to “rest easy as a piece of evil is locked away.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, Russell sentenced Ewing, 61, to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years — though that sentence will be served consecutively to the three life sentences handed down by an Arapahoe County judge last year for the murders of three members of the Bennett family in Aurora during that same string of attacks.

Ewing was serving a 40-year sentence in a Nevada prison for the attempted murder of a couple he beat with an ax handle in August 1984 when DNA matched him to evidence recovered from the victims of the January 1984 rapes and murders in Colorado.

Joe Reese, Smith’s grandson and Lettin’s son, told the court during Tuesday’s hearing that he still faces anxiety from the crime, wondering how it may have ended up differently had his whole family been at home when Ewing entered and killed Smith with a hammer.

Reese also lamented that his security blanket, often so vital to young children, was ruined alongside his innocence, as it was used by Ewing to cover Smith’s body.

Barry Smith, the victim’s brother, said he also was traumatized by the vicious crime.

“To this day, I can’t go to a hardware store and I can’t go down the aisle with hammers,” he said.

Smith and Lettin agreed that while the life sentence would not bring the family closure, they were ready to move on and begin celebrating their loved one’s life among family and friends.

“We will not allow him (Ewing) to affect us anymore,” Smith said.

The prosecution argued for the maximum sentence, to be served consecutively to his Arapahoe County sentence, with no credit given for the time Ewing has been held in jail during the trial. The defense argued that the credit must be given toward Ewing’s time and that the sentence should be served concurrently with his previous convictions in Nevada and Colorado.

Russell agreed with the prosecution on giving a consecutive sentence, though said she will take additional time to consider case law in deciding whether to offer Ewing pre-sentencing credit.

“I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference,” Russell said, given the more than four life sentences Ewing already faces.

Lettin said that the family is still struggling to come to terms with her mother’s murder.

“We know that there’ll be good times and bad times, but who among us is prepared for pure evil?” Lettin said in her statement to the court.

In issuing her sentence, Russell said she wished she had power to do more. The judge advised the family to seek closure within themselves, not through Ewing’s sentencing.

“I can’t replace a loved one,” Russell said. “I can’t make you feel better.”

Further decisions on where Ewing will serve his time will be made by the Colorado Department of Corrections through discussions with Nevada prison officials.

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