Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Binion

The Coroner Changes His Mind

As the investigation into Ted Binions death continued to make progress toward finding the truth about how Ted died, 1998, however, made the transition into a new year and still no charges had been brought against anyone.  Binions death was still officially being called undetermined, but by now Clark County Coroner Ron Flud indicated that his office was in a holding pattern waiting to see where the investigation led and what evidence might be presented to give him cause to change Binions death from undetermined to something more specific.

On Monday, March 15, 1999, nearly six months after Ted Binions death, Clark County Coroner Ron Flud called a rare news conference and announced that he was changing the classification of the manner of Binions death from undetermined to that of a homicide.  According to the coroner and Prosecutor David Roger, someone else overdosed Binion and it was not being considered an accident.  Although Flud would not comment on specifics as to why he had changed the classification of Binions death, police sources indicated that it had been changed in part due to the fact that investigators believe that the death scene had been staged and the fact that so many witnesses had provided statements that appeared to implicate Tabish and Murphy in Binions death.

It was generally believed and theorized by those in law enforcement circles that Binion had been subdued and intentionally overdosed by force by one or more people near the entrance to the den, and then later dragged to the location farther into the den where his body was found when paramedics arrived.  That theory was based on the fact that investigators had found spots of what they believed were gastric fluids that Binion had purged near the entrance to the den and the fact that the spots traversed in nearly a straight line to the point where his body was found.  It was possible, according to investigators, that Binion had purged heavily while wrapped in a sheet, blanket, or something similar, and that the liquids he had likely purged had leaked onto the floor as his body was being moved.  Similar investigations involving drug overdoses, whether intentional or accidental, have shown that subjects or victims nearly always purged, or vomited, heavily, which is the bodys natural response to rid itself of the damaging materials.

Based on the estimated time of Binions death, it was noted, there had been sufficient time for rigor mortis to set in prior to the paramedics arrival.  However, when paramedics arrived the only rigor mortis they observed was in the area of Binions jaw.  This fact suggested to the detectives that the rigor mortis had been eradicated from his body, or destroyed, when it was moved to the location where paramedics found it by the mere act of moving it.  Considering the amounts of heroin, Xanax and Valium found inside Binions stomach at the time of the autopsy, it seemed nearly inconceivable to the detectives that there would be no signs of purging on Binions body.  It was widely believed among law enforcement personnel that someone with those amounts of drugs in his stomach would have purged significantly, and the fact that there was none suggested to them that someone had cleaned his body before the paramedics were called.

It should be noted that prior to the classification of the manner of Binions death being changed, David Roger had provided images of the marks on Binions body to an outside forensic science laboratory for further evaluation.  The images examined included Binions chest, and right and left wrists.

The independent examination concluded that the small round red mark on Binions chest was compatible with the button of his shirt having been compressed with considerable force against his chest.  A larger and darker partial circle with an approximate diameter of seventeen millimeters was noted in relatively close proximity to the smaller red mark, and the examiner suggested that it could have been caused if the button believed to have made the smaller mark had been moved and compressed, possibly through a layer of fabric from Binions shirt.  It was also possible that the larger mark had been made by an object larger than the button.  In fact, according to the forensic scientist who had conducted the analysis, the larger mark on Binions chest was compatible with the diameter of the muzzle end of a firearm.  It was a possibility that could not be ruled out, especially since paramedics had not performed a sternum rub in an attempt to revive Binion because he was already dead when they had arrived, and there was little else to suggest how Binion might have received the obvious, somewhat fresh wound.

The linear series of abrasions found on Binions right wrist, as well as the abrasions on his left wrist, were examined with the possibility that they had been made by the use of handcuffs.  However, the non-uniform spacing of the lines on the right wrist was not considered compatible with the use of handcuffs.  The marks suggested that it was more likely a wristwatch band had made them.  Similarly, it was not possible to associate the marks on Binions left wrist with handcuffs, although the forensic scientist wrote that he could not positively exclude that possibility, either.  The only problem with the theory of the marks on his right wrist being made by a wristwatch was, the detectives found upon follow-up, Binion was not known to wear a wristwatch.  In fact, James Brown had stated that in all of the years that he had known Ted Binion he had never observed him to wear a wristwatch.

Although Coroner Ron Flud would not provide any details as to why he changed the classification of the manner of Binions death to that of a homicide, the question was asked by reporters regarding the considerable amount of heroin found inside Binions stomach.

You tell me, Flud said.  How do you inhale (heroin smoke) and get it into your stomach?

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