Trial of Alex Ewing “Hammer Killer” ends in mistrial

One day in and Alex Ewing’s second trial in connection with a series of brutal 1984 hammer attacks is already over.

A Jefferson County judge on Wednesday morning declared a mistrial after granting a defense motion requesting Ewing undergo a competency evaluation, Colorado’s state court administrators tweeted. The defense’s motion is sealed so it’s not clear what triggered the request, officials said.

A competency evaluation is a mental health assessment to determine how much defendants understand about the charges against them and their court proceedings.

Ewing, 61, was standing trial in Colorado for the second time since August, this time in connection with the brutal killing of 50-year-old Patricia Smith in her Lakewood home 37 years ago. Ewing was found guilty in August in the slayings of three members of the Bennett family in Aurora, which also took place in 1984.

An Arapahoe County judge in August sentenced Ewing to three consecutive life sentences.

During opening statements Tuesday, prosecutors harped on numerous similarities between the Bennett killings and Smith’s death, arguing that the crimes — which came six days apart — could only have been committed by the same person.

Ewing’s defense attorney countered that evidence had been contaminated over the years and that some of the DNA evidence didn’t match Ewing.

Stan Garnett, Boulder County’s former district attorney, said in an ideal world, competency evaluations take place long before a jury is seated for a trial and witnesses are lined up to testify. But mental health issues can develop at any time, he said.

“You’d have to imagine something pretty significant happened to cause competency to occur,” Garnett said.

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