Pair Cleared in Binion Death

Times Staff Writer

A Nevada jury today found an ex-stripper and her lover not guilty of drugging and killing Las Vegas casino heir Lonnie "Ted" Binion.

Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish were acquitted on three counts, including murder and robbery, after four days of deliberations by the Las Vegas jury.

They were convicted of conspiracy, grand larceny and burglary in a plot to steal Binion's estimated $8 million hoard of silver bars and coins. The two could face 15 to 20 years in prison when they are sentenced Jan. 28.

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 Sept. 17, 1998. The pair were convicted in 2000 on counts of murder, robbery, burglary and larceny, but the verdict was overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court last year.

Bonaventure's law clerk, Ben Saxe, described reaction to the verdict as "surprise."

Both the prosecution and defense were "kind of in the dark as to how [the jury] was feeling," Saxe said.

Outside the courtroom, Murphy, 32, told reporters that she was overwhelmed. "I'm a little disappointed, of course, but I'm a true believer in justice. This has definitely restored my faith in the system," she said.

Murphy served four years behind bars before being released on bond, and her lawyer, Michael Cristalli, said she should be eligible for probation when she is sentenced.

Murphy wept while Tabish, 39, nodded as the verdicts were read.

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

Tabish was to be returned to state prison on other charges, while Murphy remained free on $250,000 bond.

Prosecutors argued that the pair tried to kill Binion by forcing him to ingest lethal levels of heroin and the antidepressant Xanax, and then suffocated him to hasten his death.

Binion's family owned the famed Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas, known for inexpensive steak dinners and high-stakes gambling. But he lost his gaming license over allegations of drug use and ties to a mob figure.

Times wire services contributed to this report.

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