Attorney General Laxalt’s Commitment to DNA Testing Leads to Cold Case Murder Charges Filed Against Alleged Serial Killer Christopher Ewing
Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt issued the following statement concerning multiple newly filed cold case murder charges in Colorado against Nevada inmate Christopher Ewing. According to an affidavit for arrest warrant filed in Colorado, these cold case murders from 1984 were cracked using a DNA sample collected from Ewing as a result of a December 12, 2016 opinion by Attorney General Laxalt’s Office. AG Laxalt’s 2016 opinion clarifies that Senate Bill (SB) 243 applies all to convicted felons in Nevada’s prisons—even felons convicted before the bill was signed into law.
“From leading a statewide initiative to test Nevada’s nearly 8,000 backlogged sexual assault kits, to ensuring that DNA samples could be lawfully obtained from eligible convicted felons in Nevada prisons, I remain a strong believer that law enforcement should never quit in the pursuit of justice for victims,” said Laxalt. “Cases like these are the reason that from the day I was sworn in, I made forensic testing of DNA a top priority for law enforcement in Nevada. I am so proud of my office’s hard work on forensic DNA testing that continues to bear fruit. I commend the district attorneys and investigators in Colorado for their relentless pursuit of justice for these cold case victims and their families.”
SB 243 was enacted by the 2013 Nevada Legislature to establish the State’s DNA Database, and mandated the collection of a biological specimen from every person arrested for a felony. Prior to the enactment of SB 243, Nevada law only provided for DNA collection from those individuals convicted of a felony after 1997, leaving many dangerous felons serving long or life sentences untested. However, the opinion issued by AG Laxalt’s office clarified that biological specimens would be collected from all prisoners convicted of a felony offense presently in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections, regardless of the date of conviction.
As a result of this update to Nevada law, a DNA sample was collected from Ewing and submitted to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) for comparison. On July 10, 2018, the Colorado Bureau of Investigations was informed that there was a direct match between Ewing’s DNA standard and the crime scene DNA profiles for two Colorado cold cases. Shortly after the CODIS match was obtained, the Arapahoe County’s District Attorney’s Office contacted the Office of the Nevada Attorney General to request assistance in obtaining and executing a search warrant for a buccal swab from Ewing. A request for assistance was also made by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office. Staff from the Attorney General’s Office, working in collaboration with investigators from the Aurora Police Department and the Lakewood Police Department, obtained and executed the requested search warrants on July 13, 2018.
Ewing is currently serving time for convictions he sustained in Nevada in the mid-1980s. On August 9, 1984, while being transported by Mojave County Sheriff’s Officers on unrelated charges of attempted murder and burglary, Ewing escaped custody while purportedly using a restroom in Henderson, Nevada. He then entered the home of Christopher and Nancy Barry and attacked and beat them both with a wooden pick axe handle. A Clark County jury found him guilty of one count of Escape, one count of Burglary, and two counts of Attempted Murder with the Use of a Deadly Weapon. On May 2, 1984, the Eighth Judicial District Court in Las Vegas sentenced Ewing to 20 years in prison for the escape charge, 10 years for the burglary charge, 20 years for each of the attempted murder charges, and 20 years for each of the deadly-weapon enhancements. All six sentences were ordered to run consecutively for a total of 110 years. As of July 2, 2013, Ewing is serving the sentence for the final attempted murder with a deadly weapon, which has been aggregated into a single 40-year sentence. Ewing is being housed at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, Nevada.
Summary of Alleged Crimes in Colorado:
According to charging documents filed by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, prior to his apprehension in Nevada, Ewing was allegedly responsible for the sexual assault and bludgeoning to death of Patricia Smith in Lakewood, Colorado with a hammer, on or about January 10, 1984. The perpetrator’s DNA was recovered from a carpet sample taken from the scene and entered into CODIS for comparison in May 2010.
According to charging documents filed by the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office, on or about January 16, 1984, Ewing allegedly entered the residence of Bruce and Deborah Bennett in Aurora, Colorado, where he bludgeoned the Bennetts and one minor child to death with a hammer. The second minor child was also severely beaten, but survived. Both minor children also showed signs of having been sexually assaulted. The perpetrator’s DNA was recovered from fabric samples taken from the scene and was submitted for national comparison in June 2001.
In general, a criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court. The affidavit of probable cause for arrest warrant is attached.
(Photo courtesy of the Nevada Department of Corrections)