Cold cases from 1984 in Lakewood and Aurora have just heated up. DNA evidence now suggests that the same person who killed Patricia Louise Smith in January of that year also slew three members of the Bennett family -- parents Bruce and Debra, and their daughter Melissa, age seven -- less than a week later.
Only the Bennett's three-year-old daughter survived.
Unfortunately, the DNA has not yet been matched to a specific suspect. But knowing that the same person almost certainly committed these acts should revitalize both investigations, giving authorities new avenues to follow in an effort to belatedly hold a murderer responsible for four slayings committed more than a quarter-century ago.
Look below to see a family portrait of the Bennett family, a shot of Smith taken just one week before her death, and more information from the Lakewood and Aurora police departments:
DNA Links '84 Murders in Lakewood and Aurora
Lakewood and Aurora police detectives recently learned that homicides which occurred in their cities over 26 years ago and only six days apart are related.
In January of 1984, Lakewood resident Patricia Louise Smith was murdered in her apartment. Six days later many will remember that three members of the Bennett family were found murdered in their Aurora residence. A three-year-old daughter who sustained severe injuries was the only survivor of the attack.
Over 26 years later and with the assistance of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, a positive CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) DNA match was discovered, linking the still unknown suspect to both homicide scenes. Detectives expressed optimism that a suspect could eventually be identified.
Among some of the similarities in the cases is the fact that the victims were subjected to blunt force trauma. Additionally, both homicide scenes were very close to the Alameda Ave. corridor, and were in areas of construction where numerous new residences were being built. Because of that, detectives are interested in speaking with anyone who was employed in the construction industry and working in those areas at the time of the homicides.
Several years ago Aurora police detectives obtained an arrest warrant as a result of their investigation based upon the DNA of the unidentified suspect. It is believed to be the first arrest warrant issued in Colorado based upon DNA only and lacking the identity of the suspect.
While detectives contemplate the news of the DNA match, they acknowledge that the objective is to someday solve each case by identifying the suspect.
Below are synopses of both cases taken from the cold case pages of each Police Department's website.
50-year-old Patricia Louise Smith was an out going, friendly, sophisticated woman, who had recently started her own interior decorating business. Smith left behind a husband, children and grandchildren with questions of who would have wanted to murder Patricia.
Patricia Smith was murdered inside her residence, located at 12610 West Bayaud Avenue, Apartment 5, currently known as the Panorama Subdivision, located in the City of Lakewood on January 10, 1984 between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Previous investigative leads in this case have failed to identify who is responsible for murdering Mrs. Smith.
If you have any information regarding this case, you are encouraged to contact the Lakewood Police Department Cold Case hotline at (303) 987-7474 or e-mail at email@example.com
Between 9 p.m. January 15, 1984 and 10 a.m. January 16, 1984, twenty-seven year old Bruce Bennett, his twenty-six year old wife, Debra and their seven year old daughter Melissa, were brutally murdered inside their home located in the 16300 Block of East Center Drive. An autopsy found that Debra died from blunt force trauma. Additionally, autopsies determined that Bruce and Melissa died from blunt force trauma as well as sharp force injuries, consistent with a knife. Evidence at the scene indicated that Melissa had been sexually assaulted. A second child, the Bennett's three year old daughter, was found alive inside the residence suffering from blunt force trauma.
If you or someone you know can provide information on this unresolved homicide investigation, you are encouraged to contact Detective R.J. Wilson at 303-739-6106.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.