What happened to Vanessa Bennett's family? People Magazine Investigates revisits brutal attack

Vanessa Bennett is pictured with her parents, Bruce and Debra, and her older sister Melissa (Image via @writerkev/Twitter)
Vanessa Bennett is pictured with her parents, Bruce and Debra, and her older sister Melissa (Image via @writerkev/Twitter)

Vanessa Bennett's family was brutally attacked and murdered by a killer in the early morning hours of January 16, 1984. The Bennett family, consisting of Bruce (27), Debra (26), and their two young daughters, Melissa (7) and Vanessa (3), were all attacked inside their Aurora home by a serial killer named Alex Ewing, now more commonly known as the "Hammer Killer."

Now, over 38 years later, Investigation Discovery's People Magazine Investigates is scheduled to narrate the story of Ewing's 12-day-long murderous spree. Back then, 3-year-old Vanessa Bennett was the person who survived the horrific attacks of a killer described as nothing less than a monster.

People Magazine Investigates' upcoming episode titled The Colorado Hammer Killer will air on ID at 9.00 pm ET this coming Monday, July 11, 2022, narrating Vanessa's life-changing story.

How did the Colorado Hammer Killer murder Vanessa Bennett's family in 1984?


The Bennetts were attacked in their house in the middle of the night all those years ago. According to investigators, Ewing allegedly broke into the house via an unlocked garage door and murdered Bruce after running into him immediately after ascending the staircase towards the rooms. The former bludgeoned him with a hammer, following which he slit Bruce's throat.

Debra was also bludgeoned with a hammer while still in bed. Her body was found on the bedroom floor. The perpetrator struck both the adults using a hammer while also carrying a knife around with him. Additionally, blood-soaked bootprints were found all over the vandalized home.

Vanessa Bennett and her older sister Melissa shared a room where the latter was murdered and sexually abused. Vanessa was reportedly discovered the following morning, fighting for her life next to a teddy bear covered in blood. She suffered severe facial injuries when she was taken to the hospital and was in a coma. The 3-year-old victim was left partially paralyzed after the incident.


The vicious assault left Venessa with multiple potentially fatal wounds, yet she managed to pull through. But the price of that survival was high with a lifetime of blatant suffering, coupled with addiction, homelessness, depression, and rage.

She reportedly described to the court the effects of the severe brain trauma that had left her with lifelong issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and rage, as well as homelessness during the initial stages of her life.

Opening up, Vanessa Bennett said:

"I didn't just lose my parents and my sister. I lost the person who I was supposed to be. I lost my sanity. I look in the mirror every day and look at myself and I hate who I am. And I hate what I had to go through and still go through."

The survivor added:

"I hurt myself. I was a drug addict for so many years. I'm a very strong person, though, but when it comes to my family that was the most important thing to me in the whole world."

Who were the other victims of the Hammer Killer?


A few days prior to the assault on Bennetts, Alex Ewing allegedly murdered Patricia Smith, a 50-year-old interior designer, in her Lakewood home. Along with the tragic assaults on Bennetts and Smith, a 28-year-old woman was also physically abused and almost killed in her Aurora home garage on January 9, 1984.

Just days before, on January 4, 1984, someone broke into the house of a couple and nearly battered them to death with a hammer. Fortunately, both of them survived the horrific attack.

The police had come to the conclusion that a single perpetrator was accountable for the 12-day-long killing spree after the Bennett murders, recognizing a similar pattern in all the cases. They went on to take tremendous measures to collect evidence in connection with the murders by preserving bits and pieces of evidence from the crime scene, which ultimately proved to be credible.

Watch Vanessa Bennett's survival story on People Magazine Investigates' upcoming episode this Monday. As previously mentioned, the episode will air on ID and will be available to stream on Discovery+.

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Edited by R. Elahi
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