Update Bennett Family-Patricia Smith

Vanessa Bennett in 1983

More details are popping up in the news about the night that the Bennett Family was murdered.

Bruce Bennett apparently repeatedly climbed the staircase of his home in the early morning hours of Jan. 16, 1984, desperately fighting a man who sneaked into his home with a knife and hammer to attack him, his wife, and two daughters. His body was discovered the next morning by his very own mother Constance Bennett, who came to check on the family when they didn’t show up to work at a family-owned furniture store.

Bruce lost the battle with a killer who pummeled and sexually assaulted his 26-year-old wife, Debra, and 7-year-old daughter, Melissa. He also shattered the face of Bruce Bennett’s 3-year-old daughter, Vanessa. Though Vanessa’s jaw was crushed, sending jagged bones into her windpipe, she survived. Vanessa went to live with her grandmother after a lengthy series of operations that left scars on her arms, face, and head.

Constance Bennett said that Vanessa still has a weakness on the left side of her body as a result of the attack. Bennett told a reporter from the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News in 1994 that Vanessa has no memory of the attack but remembers bits and pieces about her family. “She remembers everything around that time,” Bennett said. “She remembers her dad carrying her through the snowbank to the house. She remembers the Christmas tree and the blue house … When she was a little girl, she used to say, ‘I can see them up in heaven driving a little yellow bug.”

The killer had not taken anything from the home except the bloody knife used to slit Bruce Bennett’s neck and a purse, which was discarded in the front yard. The contents of the purse were strewn across the snow.

Patricia Smith

Police found similarities between the attack at the Bennett household and nearby random attacks that happened days earlier along the Highline Canal and Alameda Avenue corridor.

On Jan. 4, 1984, a man snuck into an Aurora home and used a hammer to beat James and Kimberly Haubenschild. James Haubenschild suffered a fractured skull, and his wife had a concussion. Both survived.

On Jan. 10, 1984, someone used a hammer to strike 50-year-old Patricia Louise Smith several times in the head in her Lakewood home. She died, and her murder has never been solved. On the same day, a man using a hammer attacked flight attendant Donna Dixon in the garage of her Aurora home, leaving her in a coma. Dixon survived. The hammer attacks ended after the Bennett home attack.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Aurora Police Detective R.J. Wilson, the lead investigator on the case, at 1-303-739-6106 or the Lakewood Police Cold Case hotline at 1-303-987-7474.


  1. […] and five counts of committing a violent crime for the January 1984 killings of Bruce and Debra Bennett and their daughter […]

  2. […] raped and murdered her inside her own home. Patricia’s murder is connected to a string of hammer murders in Aurora, […]