DENVER - Three men have pleaded not guilty in a horrific attack where five people were stabbed to death at Fero's Bar and Grill, which was then torched last October.
The defendants Dexter Lewis, 22, and two brothers, Joseph Hill, 27, and Lynell Jonathan Hill, 24, entered their pleased during a Friday afternoon court hearing.
Attorneys for the Hill brothers had asked for more time before entering a plea. But Denver District Judge John Madden denied the request and entered not guilty pleas for the Hills and Lewis, the Denver Post reported.
The Denver district attorney now has until July 26 to decide whether to seek the death penalty against the men.
A judge ruled in March that there was sufficient evidence to make the trio stand trial. Each man faces five counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, five counts of first-degree murder, five counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and one count of arson.
Firefighters responding to an early morning fire on Oct.17, found the five people dead inside the burning bar on South Colorado Boulevard. Police said they believe the fire was set to cover up the killings and robbery was the motive for the slayings.
Those who died were Bar owner Young Fero, 63; Daria M. Pohl, 21; Kellene Fallon, 44; Ross Richter, 29; and Tereasa Beesley, 45. Richter was from Overland Park, Kan. The others were from the Denver area.
The Denver Medical Examiner said all five victims died of multiple stab wounds.
The brutal killings and the robbery netted just $170. A Denver detective testified at a preliminary hearing that a federal informant told him Lynell Hill needed money to cover costs in an unrelated court case.
Police said the killings were preceded by a chilling threat by Lewis.
"I'm going to get them bitches," Lewis angrily said to a man who later informed police, Denver Police Det. Mark Crider testified.
Less than one day after the bodies were discovered, police arrested the three men at two different area hotels.
Crider said Demarea Harris, an informant for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, helped police unravel the case.
Crider said Harris told police he was with the three defendants smoking marijuana and listening to music at Joseph Hills' apartment on East Kentucky Avenue on the night of the killings.
Harris said he had known Joseph Hill a couple weeks and he had known Lewis a couple months.
After partying at the apartment, Harris said he and the three men got in a car and drove to Fero's Bar, Crider testified.
Harris sensed something was up when he spotted an Ironman mask and an Incredible Hulk mask on the floor of the car, Crider testified.
Crider said, "(Harris) made a comment about it being Halloween. There was no response" from the other men.
Then, as Lewis and Harris walked up to the front door of Fero's, Harris told police that "Lewis pulled down his shirt sleeve over his hand and used that hand to open the door," Crider testified.
Harris and Lewis began playing pool in the bar.
Harris said Lewis was angry with two women at the bar.
Lewis pointed to white woman drinking at the bar and said, "She had kicked him and his girlfriend out of their apartment," Harris told police
Crider also said the informant told him that Lewis said the Asian woman -- bar owner Young Fero -- had once booted him out of the bar.
Harris told police that Lewis was "mean-mugging" and " mad-dogging talking" about the women, Crider recalled.
"I'm going to get them bitches," Lewis vowed, the informant told police.
Harris went out the back door to smoke with some of the bar patrons.
"They were nice people," the informant told Crider.
As Harris went to use the bathroom, he heard the rear door of the bar close, Crider said. He could hear people talking in the bar.
Harris came back into the bar to find Joseph Hill wearing the Hulk mask and his brother, Lynell, wearing the Iron Man mask, Crider testified
The brothers were armed with handguns, the informant told Crider. The brothers and Lewis were all wearing gloves.
Harris said Lynell Hill was holding the Asian woman down on the floor, while Joseph hill was running around looking for the cash register.
Lewis was beating a woman on the dance floor, the informant told police. Later, Harris told investigators that Lewis was armed with a knife.
"They put everyone on the ground," Crider said the informant told police. "They were trying to control everybody, yelling about wallets, ID's and credit cards."
"They pointed a gun and yelled. 'Get the tape, get the tape," Harris told Crider, referring to masking tape in the car.
Harris told police he dropped to the floor, too, because they were pointing guns at him.
Crider said the informant told them he saw the men stab several people in the bar.
How many times were they stabbed?
Crider said, "Numerous. (Harris) used a stabbing motion over and over and over." Harris said Lewis also stabbed the Juke Box.
According to Crider, the informant said that Joseph Hill stabbed the man at the bar and then he passed the knife to Lewis, who stabbed the women over and over. Then Lewis passed the knife back to Joseph Hill.
Lewis told Joseph Hill to kill bar owner, saying "They couldn't have any witnesses," Harris told Crider. "(Joseph Hill) went down, slit her throat and stabbed her twice in the head," Crider quoted the informant's account.
Harris told police he jumped up and ran out the back door to nearby Kings Soopers. As Harris was leaving, he said he saw the three men breaking bottles and pouring alcohol on the victims, Crider testified.
Harris told police he got a call on his cellphone from Lewis' cellphone. It was Joseph Hill calling. The three men drove to King Soopers to pick Harris up.
Harris told Crider he noticed the strong smell of gasoline in the car. Harris told police Joseph Hill was concerned about his fingerprints being on the gas can. The men told Harris they had torched the bar, Crider testified.
All four men returned to Joseph Hill's apartment.
Lewis and the Hill brothers "started destroying evidence…. And split up the money." Crider said the informant told police.
"They started cutting up gloves, putting bleach on items and burning items in a small pot," the informant said.
Lewis girlfriend picked him up and they gave informant a ride back to his hotel.
Crider said informant told them, "Mr. Lewis kissed him and said he loved him and said, 'Blood in, blood out.'"
The informant told police he was stunned.
"These were innocent people," Harris said, according to Crider. "If they were gangsters killing gangsters, I wouldn't be here talking to you, but these were good people.”
Police asked Harris why the men pulled the robbery.
Harris told police that Joseph Hill wanted to get money to help pay for a court case his brother was facing. They decided to rob Fero's because Joseph Hill was familiar with the bar and knew there were not a lot of people inside.
How much did the men get from the robbery?
About $170, Harris told police.
One of the handguns used in the robbery was a .357-caliber purchased two days prior at a Bass Pro Shops, Crider said.
Under questioning, Joseph Hill told police what happened, Crider testified.
Joseph Hill told police he went behind the bar and used the butt of his gun to break the security camera.
"The cash register was on the floor broken apart. It was consistent with what Joseph Hill told me," Crider said.
Police later recovered a knife, gun, two masks and a red plastic gas can, Crider said.