Ten unsolved Colorado murders on National Day of Remembrance: Read victims' personal stories
Today, on the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, families and loved ones of those whose lives were so cruelly cut short, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, whose sister was slain in 2002, will gather from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside the new Denver Crime Lab, 1371 Cherokee Street.
Photos, personal stories below.
Click on victim names for more details, including law-enforcement contact info if you can help finally bring their killers to justice. And in the meantime, remember.
Bruce, Debra Lynn and Melissa Marie Bennett
"Bruce Bennett married Debra, then joined the Navy. He served four years at Pearl Harbor between 1976 and 1980 as a sonar analyst. Bruce and Debra had two children, Melissa and Vanessa. After he got out Bruce moved his small family to Aurora and worked at a family-owned furniture store.
The Bennett family.
"'They led a very quiet life,' said his mother, Constance Bennett. 'They worked hard and stayed home at night.'
"Bruce enrolled in college and was trained as an air traffic controller. He was excited about the prospect of getting an assignment at a local airport, his mother said.
"On January 15, 1984, several family members got together and had a birthday party for Melissa, who was going to turn 8.
"Later that night intruder(s) entered the home some time between midnight and 6 a.m .
"'It was a blitz attack for no reason,' said Marvin Brandt, who investigated the case as a homicide detective between 1984 and when he retired from the Aurora Police Department in 2002. Bruce confronted an intruder on the stairs, investigators said. He had deep gashes on his arms and body. Blood that splattered and 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.
"Bruce Bennett lost the battle with a killer who pummeled and sexually assaulted his 26-year-old wife, Debra, and 7-year-old daughter, Melissa. The attack also shattered the face of their 3-year-old daughter, Vanessa. Though Vanessa's jaw was crushed, sending jagged bones into her windpipe, she survived after her grandmother, Constance Bennett, checked on the family later that morning when they didn't show up to work at the furniture store. 'It's just like it was yesterday,' Bennett said. 'It's something I'll never get over. It's scary what people can do.' Small Vanessa went to live with Bennett after a lengthy series of operations that left scars on her arms, face and head.
"An investigation in which more than 500 people were questioned did not uncover any leads to solve the case. If you have information that may relate to this triple homicide, please call the Investigations Division of the Aurora Police Department, 303-739-6018."
In September 2010, DNA evidence surfaced linking the Bennett and Smith murders, although both remain unsolved three years later. This text is from our blog post headlined "Patricia Louise Smith and Bennett family 1984 murders: DNA evidence points to same killer."
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org."
Continue for information about more unsolved Colorado murders on the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.