Denver man gets five life sentences for stabbing murders

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 30, 2015 4:33 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A 25-year-old man convicted of stabbing five people to death in a Denver bar during a botched 2012 robbery and then setting fire to the building was sentenced on Wednesday to five consecutive life sentences, prosecutors said.

Dexter Lewis was found guilty last month of multiple counts of first-degree murder along with robbery and arson charges stemming from the October 2012 killings, the Denver District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Lewis was spared the death sentence sought by prosecutors after jurors failed to unanimously agree that he should be executed. Under Colorado law, that meant he received five mandatory life sentences with no possibility of parole.

Police said Lewis and two co-defendants, brothers Lynell and Joseph Hill, went to Fero's Bar and Grill, robbed its owner and four patrons, slashed the victims to death and set the bar ablaze to cover up the crimes.

The robbery netted them $170, prosecutors said.

The victims' bodies were discovered by Denver firefighters who responded to the blaze.

The Hill brothers earlier pleaded guilty to the murders, and in exchange prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for them if they testified against Lewis.

Joseph Hill did testify for the prosecution and was sentenced to 70 years in prison, but his brother reneged on his agreement to testify and was sentenced to life with no parole.

It was the second recent high-profile murder trial in Colorado where jurors spared the life of a mass killer. In August, a suburban Denver jury declined to impose a death sentence for James Holmes after finding him guilty of murdering a dozen moviegoers, also in 2012.

Colorado has executed just one death-row inmate in nearly 50 years, although in 1997 a federal jury sentenced convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to death after his trial was moved to Denver.

McVeigh was executed in 2001 at the federal government's death chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Denver District Court Judge John Madden described the Fero's slayings as "among the most gruesome in Colorado history." He gave Lewis five life sentences plus the maximum 180 years for the arson and robbery charges.

Investigators arrested Lewis and his accomplices after an informant, who was at the scene but was not charged, provided police with details of the crime.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)