- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former stripper and her lover were acquitted yesterday of murder in the death of casino heir Ted Binion, who prosecutors say was drugged and suffocated in a plot to steal his fortune of buried silver.

The jury found Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish guilty of lesser charges of conspiracy, burglary and grand larceny in a plot to steal a $7 million cache of silver bars and coins Mr. Binion had buried in the desert.

Defense lawyers had argued Mr. Binion, a longtime heroin addict, died of an accidental overdose.

Murphy, 32, and Tabish, 39, each could face up to 16 years in prison. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 28.

The jury deliberated fewer than four days before acquitting the two on felony charges of murder, robbery, and conspiracy to commit murder and or robbery.

Outside court, Murphy said she was looking forward to spending the holidays with her family in California.

“I’m a little overwhelmed,” she said. “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 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. Murphy served four years behind bars before being released on bond, and her attorney, Michael Cristalli, said she should immediately be eligible for probation when she is sentenced.

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

This was their second trial. Their original convictions were overturned on appeal last year by the Nevada Supreme Court, which ruled that the prosecution should have had to try an extortion case against Tabish separately.

During the second trial, prosecutors portrayed Murphy as Mr. Binion’s greedy girlfriend who was having an affair with Tabish, a former contractor from Missoula, Mont., and a friend of Mr. Binion.

Prosecutors said the two hatched a plot to kill Mr. Binion by forcing him to ingest lethal levels of heroin and the anti-depressant Xanax and then suffocated him to hasten his death. He was found dead at his home on Sept. 17, 1998.

Mr. 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 Mr. Binion lost his gaming license over charges of drug use and ties to organized crime.

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