Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Binion


Pretty twenty-three-year-old Sandra Renee Murphy blew into Las Vegas in 1995 from California with a purse full of money, a suitcase, and little else.  As happens all too often in this gambling Mecca of glitz and glamour, Murphy found herself broke and hard-pressed for cash before her first weekend in Sin City was up.  That was when she started hanging out at Cheetahs, a topless club, on the advice of a friend who told her that she might find work there.  She did, and thats where she met fifty-two-year-old multimillionaire playboy Lonnie Ted Binion, casino executive of and heir to Binions Horseshoe Casino and Hotel.

Murphy was an eye-catcher, a head-turner, who had learned as a teenager that sex appeal and fast-talking go farther and produce faster cash than a suit and a college education.  Having hung out with club frequenters since she was old enough to get into such establishments, she naturally fit in with the clientele and employees at Cheetahs.  She knew that many of the dancers from Southern California would go to Las Vegas a few days every month to dance because they could make a lot more money in Vegassometimes thousands in a single weekend.  Murphy reasoned, correctly, that she could do the same.

Cheetahs Club
Cheetahs Club (Gary C. King)

It was only a few nights after Sandy started working at Cheetahs that fifty-three-year-old moon-faced Ted Binion walked into the club with a friend, mobster Herbert Fat Herbie Blitzstein, and a fellow gaming executive.  His favorite haunts were topless joints, and he frequently conducted business at such establishments. Cheetahs, Club Paradise, and the Olympic Garden were among his favorites.  On this particular evening, however, Ted was at a low point in his life, more than half-drunk and depressed over marital problems and ongoing troubles with the state gaming control commission over his gaming license.  Because of his drug and alcohol problems and known associations with Herbie Blitzstein, Binion had so many stipulations attached to his gaming license that he feared that his lucrative career in the casino business was nearly over.  Binion particularly enjoyed Cheetahs because he had prior success at picking up female dancers there who sometimes went home with him, and he figured that spending the evening there might cheer him up.  The girls who worked there loved Ted Binion.  Known for his generosity, it wasnt unusual for him to tip the girls $500.00 or more on any given evening.  It was no wonder that some of them would spend the night with him.

Sandy Murphy (AP)
Sandy Murphy (AP)

Sandy Murphy sat at the table next to Binions that evening, and was telling all of her troubles to Nick the Kick, one of Cheetahs bouncers.  Ted overheard part of her conversation about how her boyfriend had recently dumped her for an aerobics trainer, and he quickly became interested in her because it appeared that they shared something in common.

Sandy was introduced to the customers that evening as The Irish Venus.  Ted was immediately taken by her good looks, and it wasnt long before Sandy was sharing a booth with Ted at his invitation.  Ted was a steadfast party animal who seemed to live for the Las Vegas nightlife, and often wouldnt go home until hed spent the pocketful of cash that he always carried with him.  This particular night would be no different for the millionaire playboy in the twenty-four hour city that he loved.

Sandy Murphy had no idea who Ted Binion was.  She was not particularly impressed by him, but she might have been had she known that he was the son of audacious casino legend Benny Binion.  Nonetheless he was friendly, and a paying customer, so she remained with him and humored him as he drank Absolut vodka on into the night.  Obviously attracted to The Irish Venus, Binion tried his best to impress Sandy.  At one point he attempted to push a wad of cash that amounted to about $1,700.00 into her hand, but ended up insulting her instead.  Furious, even though she desperately needed the money, she threw it back into his face.  Ted stuffed the money back into his pocket and left.  He commented later to friends and family members that he had been impressed by this womans actions because, he thought, he had found someone who was not interested in him only for his money.  Most women would have taken the cash, he said, but not Sandy.  Their meeting that fateful evening changed both their lives forever.

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