I will ask my mother if she remembers the hammer attacks before the murder getting much press. I was completely shocked when I read about them as an adult. I was completely unaware of them. I've often wondered the same thing as you mentioned, if someone was copying this particular killer or if they were one and the same.
Sadly, I never see anything about this crime on the local news. I was so glad to see it blogged about online as it does seem at times like everyone has forgotten about it. So much press was and is still given to the Ramsey case that it seems like this poor family can't get any.
Here are some other articles I have about it:
Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
January 17, 1984
3 IN FAMILY SLAIN
Author: United Press International
Dateline: AURORA, Colo.
MURDER MULTIPLE ATTEMPT COLORADO
Estimated printed pages: 2
A police officer kept a vigil today at the hospital bed of a severely beaten 4-year-old girl who may be able to identify the attacker who fatally bludgeoned and stabbed her parents and sister and left her for dead at the family's new home.
Officials said the officer had been with Vanessa Bennett since noon yesterday (2 p.m. EST) when she was brought to Children's Hospital for more than 10 hours of reconstructive surgery on her head.
A doctor said Vanessa "took the surgery" well, and remained in critical but stable condition today. The girl suffered multiple fractures and cuts on her face and head.
Police spokesman Mike Sellman said Vanessa was clubbed repeatedly with a blunt instrument and had lost three to four pints of blood when she was found conscious and crying in a bedroom of her family's suburban home yesterday morning.
Sellman said the bloody bodies of the child's parents, Bruce Alan Bennett, 27, and Debra Lynn Bennett, 26, and her sister, Melissa Marie, 8, were found bludgeoned and stabbed inside the home.
Police had no suspects or motive in the slayings, and hoped Vanessa would be able to provide information.
The victims were found yesterday morning by police, who received a report
from a woman who identified herself as Bennett's mother.
Sellman said all the family members were dressed in bedclothes. Police believed they were attacked after 9 p.m. Sunday.
"The mother and daughters were found in upstairs bedrooms, and the father apparently stumbled out of one of the bedrooms down some stairs," said Arapahoe County Coroner John Woods. "There appeared to have been a struggle in the bedroom."
A blood-stained knife was found on the front lawn, Sellman said.
The family had moved to the quiet suburban neighborhood about Thanksgiving
from a home several miles away, police said.
Copyright (c) 1984 Philadelphia Daily News
Record Number: 8302040144
News-Sentinel, The (Fort Wayne, IN)
February 7, 1984
Brutal killings leave another neighborhood in fear's grasp
Author: Dave Haynes of The News-Sentinel
Section: LOCAL NEWS
Estimated printed pages: 3
The headlines in the Denver newspapers are haunting and familiar:
``Three in family slain; girl clings to life.''
``Police want to question three in deaths.''
The stories report the brutal beating deaths of Bruce, Debra Lynn and Melissa Bennett of Aurora, Colo. The family was bludgeoned to death three weeks ago.
Aurora police have no suspects and few leads in the grisly case which has shaken the Denver suburb's 202,000 residents.
They do have a case study: Details of the Bennett slayings bear striking resemblance to the September beating deaths of three members of the Dan Osborne family in Fort Wayne.
While there is not apparent connection between the two incidents, the similarities are eerie.
Consider these comparisons:
* A mother, father and child were slain, while a younger child was attacked, left for dead, but survived. Dan Osborne, 35, his wife, Jane, 34, and their son Ben, 11, all were killed with a blunt instrument - believed to be a baseball bat. Two-year-old Caroline Osborne also was sexually molested and beaten. She survived and wandered through the house for two days before the bodies of her mother, father and brother were found on the morning of Sept. 19.
A co-workers discovered the bodies when Dan Osborne didn't report for work at The News-Sentinel.
The Bennetts - Bruce, 27: Debra Lynn, 26: and their 7-year-old daughter Melissa, were killed by blows to the head with a blunt instrument, possibly a hammer. Melissa was sexually molested. A younger daughter, 4-year-old Vanessa, was critically injured and is recovering in a Denver hospital. Bruce Bennett's throat also had been cut, possibly with the family's butcher knife, which was found in the snow outside, covered in blood.
The bodies were discovered about 10 a.m. Jan. 16. A relative went to the home when co-workers noticed the parents didn't report to work at a wholesale furniture warehouse.
* Both the Osborne and Bennett slayings occurred in upper-middle class neighborhoods where the families had only resided a short time. The Osbornes moved into their Harrison Hill neighborhood home less than four months before they were slain. The Bennetts moved from another part of Aurora to their new home over Thanksgiving.
* Both neighborhoods had recently begun organizing crime-watch programs. Fort Wayne Police Chief David Riemen was speaking to residents in the Harrison Hill neighborhood Sept. 17, just hours after the Osbornes are believed to have been killed. Aurora Police Public Information Officer Mike Sellman said the neighborhood where the Bennetts died had been organizing a crime-watch when the slayings occurred.
* Other violent crimes in the area were investigated for possible links with the murders. The Osbornes allegedly were murdered by Calvin D. Perry III, who was linked by police to a spree of 15 violent incidents, including several rapes and another murder. Sellman said Aurora police are investigating three other incidents in the Denver area in which people were attacked with hammers, possibly the weapon used against the Bennetts. In a Jan. 10 hammer attack, a woman in the Denver suburb of Lakewood died.
* Reactions by residents and investigative techniques by police were similar. As in Fort Wayne, lock, gun and home security system sales increased. So did the response to police crime prevention efforts. A reward fund has been established for the arrest and conviction of the slayer, and a second fund has been established to defray Vanessa Bennett's medical expenses.
As in Fort Wayne, Aurora police called on the FBI to outline a psychological profile of the slayer. The profile has not been released to the public. A profile was drawn of the Osbornes slayer, although details were released.
Aurora police also have established a information hotline phone number and are considering creating a task force.
Fort Wayne Police Public Information Office Tom Engle said he has discussed the cases with a friend who works for the Greeley, Colo., Police Department, but is not aware of any official contact between Fort Wayne and Aurora police. Greeley is about 50 miles north of Aurora.
Aurora police have little reason to contact Fort Wayne authorities because the day the Bennetts' bodies were discovered Calvin D. Perry III was charged with the murders of the three Osborne family members in Fort Wayne.
The next day - as the murder investigation was in its embryonic stages in Colorado - Perry, 18, was found dead in his cell at the Allen County Jail. Officials have ruled he committed suicide and have closed the file on the Osborne case.
Although 26 police officers have been assigned to the Aurora case, there has been little progress, Sellman said.
The body of one of the murdered Bennett family members is removed from their Aurora home Jan. 16. Photo By the Denver Post.PHOTO
Copyright (c) 1984 The News-Sentinel
Record Number: 0203130020
Rocky Mountain News (CO)
January 16, 1994
MOM CAN'T FORGET DAY OF TRAGEDY 'IT'S PART OF OUR LIVES,' SAYS WOMAN RAISING SOLE SURVIVOR OF 1984 MASSACRE OF FAMILY
Author: TUSTIN AMOLE
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS STAFF WRITER
HISTORY MURDER ASSAULT CHILDREN
Estimated printed pages: 3
It's been 10 years since Connie Bennett walked into her son's house and found him, his wife and 7-year-old daughter bludgeoned to death and her 3- year-old granddaughter barely alive.
But the years haven't dulled the pain, and tears still spring easily to her eyes when she thinks about that Monday morning Jan. 16, 1984.
"It occurs to me every day," Bennett said last week. "It's something all of us have had to live with. It's part of our lives."
Bennett's son, Bruce Bennett, 27; his 26-year-old wife, Debra; and daughter Melissa were found beaten to death. Their other daughter, Vanessa, was barely alive, whimpering quietly in her bed, her tiny skull cracked open.
The killer, still unknown, retreated into the nightmare from which he emerged.
Connie Bennett last saw the family alive at a gathering of family and friends at their house 10 years ago. It was an early celebration of Melissa's eighth birthday.
Bennett returned the next morning when the couple failed to show up at work. She remembers thinking she had better check on them in case there had been something like a carbon monoxide leak in the house.
As she walked up the sidewalk, Bennett saw Debra's purse lying on the front lawn, its contents spilled out. Her heart skipped a beat.
"It was like I was in a daze," she recalled.
She found Bruce inside the blood-spattered house on a stairway leading from the main floor to a lower level, bludgeoned and his throat cut. Debra lay dead in the couple's bedroom. Melissa and Vanessa were in their beds.
"I called 911, and I couldn't remember the address," she said. "I had to run outside to get it. I was hysterical, I guess."
Bennett didn't know Vanessa had survived until a paramedic rushed out of the house, cradling the battered little girl in his arms. She had skull fractures to both sides of her head, and her jaw was shattered.
After days of uncertainty and numerous surgeries, Vanessa recovered. Now 13, she attends middle school in the metro area, takes piano and dance lessons and plays trumpet in the school band.
Vanessa still has a shunt that surgeons placed in her head to drain fluid
from the brain. She is a little weak on her left side. Her grandmother tries to make her life as normal as possible.
"She often says, 'Other kids have normal families. I wish I had a normal family with a mom and dad and a sister,' " Bennett said.
Vanessa has some memories, images in her mind of the mother, father and sister she lost.
"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."
Vanessa seems especially to miss her sister and their games of hide-and- seek, Bennett said.
"When she was a little girl, she used to say, 'I can see them up in heaven driving a little yellow bug,' " Bennett said. "Debra used to drive a little yellow Volkswagen bug."
Vanessa also tells people she wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up, inspired, her grandmother thinks, by the people who cared for her when she hovered precariously between life and death.
Bennett said knowing the killer has gone unpunished is the salt in her wounded heart.
"It just seems like there has to be some justice," Bennett said. "I think all of us would feel better to know somebody was behind bars and can't hurt anybody else."
Bennett believes that whoever crept though the unlocked garage door in the quiet darkness on a mission to kill was looking for money, maybe high on drugs. She doesn't think it was anyone who knew the Bennetts.
"They had no money," Bennett said. "They probably didn't have five, 10
dollars in there. My son was such a mild-mannered guy. My daughter, too. They lived a real ordinary life."
Vanessa has no memory of the attack, Bennett said. If she does, it's buried too deep to reach now. "We have mixed feelings about Vanessa," said Aurora police Capt. Tom Maron. "If it's not going to lead to anything, maybe we'd prefer that she didn't remember it."
"If she ever does remember something, it's going to be real mind- boggling," said Aurora police Detective Marv Brandt.
The last photo of the Bennett family shows, from left, Melissa,
Bruce, Debra and Vanessa, the sole survivor of a bludgeoning in
Aurora 10 years ago that claimed the lives of her parents and older
sister. Rocky Mountain News Library File Photo. FILE: BENNETT,
Copyright (c) 1994 Rocky Mountain News
Record Number: 9401030725
Rocky Mountain News (CO)
January 16, 1994
ONE DECADE LATER, AURORA DETECTIVE STILL IS HOPING TO SOLVE TRIPLE MURDER
Author: JOHN C. ENSSLIN
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS STAFF WRITER
MURDER INVESTIGATION CHILDREN HISTORY
Estimated printed pages: 2
A decade has winnowed the ranks of those who first investigated the murders of the Bennett family down to Marvin Brandt.
But time hasn't taken the edge off the veteran detective's recall of that day in 1984. He won't let it.
Brandt still keeps a picture of the Bennett children posted at his desk. One depicts 7-year-old Melissa, who was bludgeoned to death, and the other is of Vanessa, the lone survivor of the unsolved massacre.
"It's incentive," he said last week. "You look at these pictures and say, 'This case has got to be solved for these two little girls. For the family, too. But we work for the victims."
The Bennett case is reviewed periodically as detectives join or leave the Aurora Police Department's major crimes unit. But transfers and retirements have left Brandt as the only investigator still assigned to the case who has been involved since the day of the crime.
It has been a frustrating decade, especially as the leads dry up. As of last week, the most recent new call on the case came two years ago from a psychic.
"I would say it's a stone cold (mystery)," Brandt said. "We don't have any leads that are strong enough that we can file a case."
Brandt remains convinced that the murders of Melissa Brandt and her parents, Bruce and Debra, are somehow connected to a series of three other hammer attacks that preceded the murders.
One occurred in Lakewood, where a woman was bludgeoned to death. The other two involved assaults on homeowners who tried to fend off an intruder.
Brandt still has a vivid recall of the day of the murder. He was sitting in an Arapahoe County courtroom as a witness to another murder trial when the call came in.
He remembers walking through the garage door of the Bennett house and encountering another detective, Wilson Egan.
"What's the deal?" Brandt asked.
Egan just shook his head.
"It's quite a mess," he replied.
"It was devastating," Brandt recalled. "All the detectives who were there working were shaking their heads."
Brandt said he remains keenly aware of Jan. 16's significance. As in years past, he will circulate a memo to other officers, telling them to keep an eye out as they patrol the area.
An optimist, Brandt is still convinced the killer will be caught.
"It's just going to take the right person, who's going to tell somebody, who's going to get in trouble sometime, just like they typically do."
Copyright (c) 1994 Rocky Mountain News
Record Number: 9401030656
I think this one is particularly interesting as it's written by a neighbor:
The Denver Post
September 4, 2003
In memory of the Bennetts
Author: Pius Kamau
Section: DENVER AND WEST
There's nothing like a triple homicide in the neighborhood to trigger alarm and fear. When a family of three was murdered during a burglary in our neighborhood in the early '80s, our reactions were varied. One friend moved to a gated community in Cherry Hills; others moved out of state. For our part, we believed that variation of geography never changes the essence of man's nature.
Unfortunately, a short while later, our faith was shaken to the core when the Bennett family was slaughtered on a cold January morning in 1984. Since then, whenever we feed our dogs, we remember the horror. If it hadn't been for that killing, we'd still be an Irish setter family; we instead own Dobermans.
Watching A&E's "Cold Crime Files," I thought the almost-forgotten Bennett case perfect for a murder-mystery. The memory of that harrowing January was indelibly burnt in my mind: The garage door was open all night. He died of a slit throat; his wife and daughter were bludgeoned to death. Little Vanessa survived, with skull fractures and memory loss.
Surely the police would share their findings if they knew I was writing about an Aurora mystery?
We now know the police never forgot; they've "identified" and indicted a John Doe from the DNA he so casually left behind in his imagined "perfect crime." Indeed, today there is no such thing as a "perfect" crime. Criminals always leave something of themselves behind: a fingerprint, footprint or DNA-rich body fluids. And since each human has a particular odor, I foresee a method of someday identifying human "smell" molecules.
In 1984, we didn't move, but we did the next best thing: protect our home. Burglar alarms and guns were impractical with small children in the house. Our friendly Irish setter welcomed strangers at the door with her pretty feathered tail. So for a dozen years, we had German shepherds and later Doberman pinschers, whose aggressive majesty and territoriality belie their love and absolute placidity. With these dogs, the Bennetts would never have been surprised by someone in the garage.
This is still a murder mystery. I think of the killer or killers. Was this a random act? What was the motive and why the Bennetts? Why such violence - knives, hammers, blood everywhere? Why kill the wife and child? And, more important, is the killer still around or is he in jail? What does he think or feel - if anything? I suspect we're dealing with a cold-blooded predator who thought he got away with murder.
But now, the DNA identification may have woken him up from his two-decade torpor. I can see him reading The Denver Post and gasping: "There's a warrant out for me." This is the end of his arrogant, smug confidence. The Bennetts might still get some justice, and we who have lived the nightmare might still see justice carried out.
Most of my neighborhood's old- timers are still here; we were not forced to move by this or any other terrorist. I realize, too, that wherever we are, we're never immune from killers. The evil hand can reach and explode a truck bomb in front of a building; pilot a plane into shining, glass Twin Towers; or carjack you at your neighborhood intersection. And your gated community may not save you from evildoers.
I remind myself that we outnumber them, and we've got to find ways to defend against them. They must be reminded that there's nothing like a perfect crime. If DNA doesn't track them down, then identification of odor molecules will someday get them.
If there's anything certain about science and research, it's that it continues to find and expand ways for justice to be carried out. With our ever-evolving computer technology, it'll be that much easier to connect DNA evidence to criminals.
However, all that will depend on legislative prescience and the availability of financing. Will our lawmakers make the necessary funds available for us to sniff out the murderers among us? The Bennetts' murder and the recent DNA indictment should make all of us think twice about the potential of DNA to catch criminals - and to exonerate the innocent.
Pius Kamau of Aurora is a thoracic and general surgeon and a commentator on National Public Radio's ``Morning Edition." He was born and raised in Kenya and immigrated to the U.S. in 1971.
Copyright 2003 The Denver Post Corp.
Record Number: 1165750
Here is a link to a local free paper called Westword with a short blurp about the murders and a photo of the house.