DENVER (AP) — A man convicted of stabbing five people to death during a Denver bar robbery that netted $170 was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison.
The judge said he handed down five life sentences and an additional 180 years for other felony counts because jurors rejected the death penalty for Dexter Lewis, 25, in the October 2012 killings.
The case raised doubts about whether capital punishment will ever be imposed again in Colorado. It followed the life sentence given to Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, who killed 12 people and tried to kill 70 more at a crowded midnight movie.
Lewis was convicted in August of five counts of murder for the stabbings at Fero's Bar and Grill. Attorneys focused on his abusive childhood in his defense.
Prosecutors said Lewis led a four-man robbery crew at Fero's, where he killed the bar's owner and four customers. Two men testified that Lewis stabbed his victims while they were held at gunpoint.
One juror found that the details of Lewis' troubled upbringing called for the mercy of a life sentence over execution. That took the death penalty off the table, because death sentences must be unanimous in Colorado.
Killed in the robbery were the bar's owner, Young Suk Fero, 53, and customers Daria M. Pohl, 21, Kellene Fallon, 44, Tereasa Beesley, 45, and Ross Richter, 29.
Relatives of the victims told the judge Wednesday about the crime's continuing impact on their lives before he issued the sentence. Prosecutors have said that the victims' families had come to terms with the life sentence.
Lewis' accomplices, brothers Joseph and Lynell Hill, pleaded guilty to murder and received lengthy sentences.
The fourth man was a confidential informant at the time for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and reported the slayings to authorities. He was not charged in the case.