DENVER (AP) — A man convicted of stabbing five people to death during a Denver bar robbery that netted $170 will be formally sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday.
A judge will issue a mandatory sentence of life without parole for Dexter Lewis, 25, who was convicted in August of five counts of murder for the October 2012 stabbings at Fero’s Bar and Grill. 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.
Jurors couldn’t agree on death for Lewis, whose attorneys carefully detailed an abusive childhood. The case raised doubts about whether capital punishment will ever be imposed again in Colorado as it came just after theater shooter James Holmes was given a life sentence for murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 more at a crowded midnight movie.
In both cases, prosecutors said a single juror blocked the death penalty. In Lewis’ case, the juror found that the details of his troubled upbringing favored the mercy of a life sentence over execution. That took the death penalty off the table, because death sentences must be unanimous in Colorado.
Relatives of Lewis’ victims will have a chance to tell the judge about the crime’s continuing impact on their lives before he issues his sentence. Lewis and his family will also have a chance to speak.
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. 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, Demarea Harris, 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.