Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Binion

New Chapter - Second Time Around

In mid-October 2004, Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish appeared once again in court on charges of allegedly murdering Vegas mogul Ted Binion. The retrial began with opening statements made by state attorney, Christopher Lalli, who led the prosecution team. Lalli charged the couple with forcing Binion to drink a poisonous cocktail mix, containing 12 packages of heroin and 90 Xanax sleeping pills, then suffocating him in an effort to plunder his estate and loot millions of dollars worth of silver, Chris OConnell of Court TV reported in an October article.

Conversely, defense attorneys for Tabish and Murphy emphasized during their opening arguments that the evidence pointing to murder was circumstantial at best and that in the months preceding his death, Binions growing heroin use made him an obvious candidate for an early demise, OConnell further stated. Murphys lawyer depicted her as a caring and reliable woman who had great affection for Binion and who went out of her way to assist him throughout his long battle with drug addiction. Tabishs lawyer followed a similar strategy and portrayed their client as a hard working businessman who was loyal to his friend Binion, despite having an affair with his girlfriend. Furthermore, they suggested that their client had no motive to steal money from Binion.

Over the subsequent weeks the prosecution called on witnesses who offered supporting testimony about the unusual manner in which Binion died, Murphys relationship with him and her affair with Tabish. Furthermore, the court heard about Tabishs money problems and he and Murphys alleged plot to murder Binion. The prosecution introduced witnesses that conducted business with Tabish, including a risk manager for a truck and equipment leasing company who told jurors that he defaulted on several leases one month before Binion was found dead and a bank employee who testified that Tabish owed several hundred thousand dollars from unpaid loans, OConnell reported. 

One of the more interesting pieces of testimony came from a friend and former employee of Tabishs named Kurt Gratzer. During the original trial, Gratzer told the court that Tabish tried to pay him off to kill Binion but during the 2004 trial he changed his story and instead said that he and Tabish only joked about killing him. However, Gratzers friend Terry Sweeney and Montana Corrections Officer Tim Boileaus testimonies contradicted his story.

According to Sweeney, Gratzer bragged that Tabish wanted him to take care of a guy in Vegas whose girlfriend he was sleeping with, Lisa Sweetingham stated in a October 20th Court TV article. Boileau told the jury a similar story stating that Tabish tried to pay him off to kill a Vegas casino owner who had a stripper girlfriend, allegedly referring to Binion and Murphy. During cross-examination, Tabishs attorney, Tony Serra, questioned the credibility of Gratzers testimony, even though he seemed sympathetic to his clients case, and went so far as to say that the purported murder for hire conversation he had with Tabish was some kind of drug psychosis, Sweetingham further reported.

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