Jury rejects death penalty for Dexter Lewis for Fero’s Bar homicides

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Dexter Lewis, 25, was convicted of killing five people at Fero's Bar and Grill in October 2012 on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015.

DENVER — The jury rejected the death penalty Thursday for Dexter Lewis, the man convicted of killing five people in a robbery at a Denver bar then setting it on fire to cover up the crime.

The crime took place Oct. 13, 2012 and firefighters found the bodies of five people inside Fero’s Bar and Grill on Colorado Boulevard after they responded to a call about a fire.

The victims found dead inside the bar were owner Young Fero, 63, Daria Pohl, 22, Kellene Fallon, 45, Tereasa Beesley, 45, and Ross Richter, 29. They had been stabbed to death.

“The defendant stabbed them over and over and over and over, going down the line, the last victim having to wait for his or her turn,” prosecutor Joe Morales said during the trial.

Lewis, 25, was found guilty of 16 counts earlier this month, related to the aggravated robbery, first-degree murder and arson he committed.

“I’ve been in the Denver DA’s Office for 30 years and I’ve never seen a case where there were five people killed at the hand of one individual,” Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said during the sentencing hearing.

Lewis’ two accomplices entered guilty pleas for their roles in the crime in an agreement that required them to testify against Lewis. Joseph Hill, 29, received five life sentences while his brother, Lynell Hill, 27, received a 70-year prison sentence.

During a February 2013 preliminary hearing, prosecutors said the trio was short on cash and planned to rob the bar to pay debts.

Prosecutors also said they only got away with about $170 in cash before going to a nearby gas station to get the fuel to torch the bar.

The jury found aggravating factors in the first phase of the sentencing trial, evidence as to why Lewis should be sentenced to death, but ultimately failed to find the aggravating factors outweighed mitigating factors.

As a result, Lewis will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The court date for the formal sentencing has not been set.

The prosecution decided in 2013 to pursue the death penalty against Lewis for the homicides. It was the first time since 2001 that prosecutors in Denver have sought the death penalty. The last time a person was sentenced to the death penalty in Colorado was in 1986.

It was the second death penalty case in Colorado this year that has ended with a sentence of life in prison. The first was the Aurora theater shooting trial.

James Holmes was formally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 3,318 years on Wednesday for killing 12 and injuring 70 more in July 2012.