Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Unknown Colorado killer charged with three murders
Hammer attack kills family of three
by Robert A. Waters
According to a recent article I read, Colorado has at least 1,500 cold cases from the 1950s forward--probably about average for its size and population. Many of the cases have little physical evidence. Some of the case files have even been lost by local police agencies. Unless someone confesses, most will never be solved. Occasionally, however, investigators find a file that contains DNA or one or more fingerprints.
It’s been more than twenty-five years since an Aurora, Colorado family was murdered. Because cops have DNA but no one to match it to, they’ve taken the unusual step of charging an unknown killer.
Sometime between midnight and 6 a.m., on January 16, 1984, Bruce Bennett, 27, his wife Debra, 26, and their daughters Melissa, 7, and Vanessa, 3, were attacked by someone using a hammer and knife. Bruce was murdered. Debra and Melissa were both raped and murdered. Little Vanessa was savagely beaten but survived.
Snow covered the ground outside when the unknown assailant broke into the Bennett home. In a recent article, Denver Post reporter Kirk Mitchell summarized what happened: “Bruce confronted the man on the stairs, investigators said. He had deep gashes on his arms and body. Blood that splattered and was smeared up and down the staircase marked the running battle. Debra’s body was found in her bedroom, and Melissa and Vanessa were both found in their beds.” A bloody knife and purse were found in the yard outside.
After being discharged from the Navy where he served as a sonar analyst, Bruce Bennett returned to his hometown of Aurora and worked in the family-owned furniture store. He went to school at night and had recently completed the credentials to become an air traffic controller. “They [the Bennett family] led a quiet life,” his mother, Constance, said. “They worked hard and stayed home at night.”
Marvin Brandt, a former homicide investigator with APD, said, “It was a blitz attack for no reason.” The scene shook even hardened detectives. Blood seemed to be everywhere. While most of it belonged to the family, some of the blood belonged to the assailant. Enough blood and semen was obtained to get the killer’s DNA profile.
This was not the first such attack in the area. Just two weeks before, a couple was attacked in their home by a stranger with a hammer. They survived, although both were seriously injured.
A week later, Patricia Louise Smith, 50, died in her home after being struck several times with a hammer. The murder has never been solved.
Later that day, flight attendant Donna Dixon was attacked in her garage by a hammer-wielding assailant. She barely survived the attack.
District Attorney Jim Peters has obtained a John Doe warrant for the assailant, based on the DNA found at the scene of the Bennett homicides. Police have cleared dozens of people, including all members of the Bennett family.
Vanessa, whose jaw was shattered by hammer blows, was raised by Bruce’s mother, Constance Bennett. “It’s scary what people can do,” she said. “I don’t know why anyone would beat a three-year-old girl.”
Here’s hoping the killer is identified and brought to justice.
Posted by Robert A. Waters at 10:16 PM