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Pair Not Guilty of Binion Murder

In retrial, a jury acquits a former stripper and her ex-lover in the death of the Horseshoe casino heir. They are convicted of lesser charges.

November 24, 2004|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

A jury on Tuesday found an ex-stripper and her former lover not guilty of drugging and killing Las Vegas casino heir Ted Binion.

Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish were acquitted on three counts -- including murder and robbery -- after 18 hours of deliberations over four days by a Clark County jury. Both were found guilty of conspiracy, grand larceny and burglary.

Murphy wept and Tabish sighed when the verdicts were announced. They will be sentenced Jan. 28 and could face up to 16 years in prison.

The six-week trial, presided over by Clark County District Judge Joseph Bonaventure, was the second for Murphy and Tabish after the death of Binion in his home on Sept. 17, 1998.

"I'm a little overwhelmed," Murphy, 32, said outside the courtroom Tuesday. "I'm a little disappointed, of course, but I'm a true believer in justice. This has definitely restored my faith in the system."

Tabish, hugging his father in the courtroom, said: "This murder thing is behind me.... We're done with it."

In 2000, Murphy and Tabish were convicted of murder, robbery, burglary and larceny for drugging and suffocating Binion in an attempt to raid his $50-million estate. Binion's family once operated Binion's Horseshoe Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas.

Tabish, 39, had been discovered soon after Binion's death trying to dig up $8 million in silver that he had helped Binion bury in a vault in the Nevada desert.

The first verdicts were overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court last year, which cited procedural problems with how the case was tried.

Prosecutors accused the defendants of forcing Binion, 55, to ingest heroin and the anxiety medication Xanax and then suffocating him. Defense attorneys countered that Binion, a heroin addict, overdosed on his own.

Tabish's attorney, J. Tony Serra, said testimony from medical experts that Binion was not suffocated probably led to the acquittal.

"I took [Tabish's case] because I really believed in his innocence, and I still do," Serra said.

Ben Saxe, a law clerk for Bonaventure who was in the courtroom when the verdicts were read, said the reaction was one of surprise. Both sides were "kind of in the dark as to how [the jury] was feeling," Saxe said. Saxe said that in convicting Murphy and Tabish on the lesser counts and not the murder charge, the jurors had determined that when Binion was found dead, the pair "kind of conspired" to loot his estate.

At the time of Binion's death, Murphy, a former topless dancer, was his live-in girlfriend. She also was having an affair with Tabish, a former contractor from Montana.

After the verdict, Tabish went back to prison, where he is serving a sentence in a separate extortion case. Murphy was released on $250,000 bond.

*

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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