Ted Binion Death & Legacy – What Happened to Legendary Casino Magnate?
Ted Binion’s life and death sound like a group of events directly taken out of a Martin Scorsese movie. He lived a high life, and he had everything.
But, his reckless life and poor decisions led him to lose a successful casino business, his family, and finally, his life.
His death remains a controversy to this day, even after more than 20 years have passed since the event.
So, what do we know about Ted Binion and his last days? From the information floating out there, which is true and which is false?
And, what legacy did he leave behind himself? Let’s take a short retrospect of Ted Binion’s rowdy life and his mysterious death at the age of 54.
Who Was Ted Binion?
Ted Binion was born in 1943. He was one of Benny Binion’s five children. From his early adult years, Ted was heavily involved in his father’s business, helping him run the famous Binion Horseshoe Casino.
At the age of 21, Ted Binion took full control of the casino from his father, who became a convicted criminal and wasn’t allowed to run a casino anymore.
For the following 30 years, Ted was the face of the casino. He was known for enjoying the expensive life, mingling with high-profile players in his casino, and flirting with many women every night.
From that alone, it’s not difficult to assume that Ted Binion led a turbulent life that ultimately led to his demise.
In 1986, he was arrested for drug trafficking. Not only that, but he was also frequently seen associating with known mob figures, including Fat Herbie Blitzstein.
Although the family functioned fairly well while the patriarch Benny Binion was still alive, an all-out war erupted between Ted and his siblings for control over the casino when he died in 1989.
Ted Binion managed to consolidate his power over the casino and remain de facto in charge for close to a decade.
Ted Binion’s Final Years
In his last few years, Ted Binion became heavily involved in drugs. He sold the family’s Montana ranch, lost his casino license, and his estranged wife left him, taking their daughter with her.
By early 1998, Binion was at rock bottom, having lived an exciting and wild life, but one that made him lose everything, even his life at the end.
While he was running Horseshoe Casino, Binion had also previously had a massive vault in the basement of the venue.
When he was forced to step down, he also had to move all of his possessions, including his extensive silver collection.
Ted Binion Cause of Death and the First Months
Binion died on September 17, 1998. He was found on a small mattress in his Las Vegas home.
It was his girlfriend Sandy Murphy who found his body and called 911. Reports and descriptions of the Ted Binion death scene quickly flooded local and national headlines.
The police found empty bottles near his body, and the first reports indicated that Binion overdosed on a combination of prescription Xanax and heroin.
They also soon learned that Binion purchased 12 pieces of tar heroin the day before he died. He got the prescription from his neighbor, who was a doctor.
Binion’s death was initially ruled a clear case of suicide. This was substantiated by his girlfriend, who said that he had been suicidal ever since he lost his casino license.
He already had a suicide case in his family, as his sister Barbara, who also had heavy drug problems, committed suicide a few decades earlier.
However, Binion’s other sister, Becky, dispelled any such notions that Binion might have killed himself.
These differing representations of Binion along with some new evidence led the police to suspect that foul play was at hand and that Binion might not have killed himself.
Moreover, Binion’s lawyer said that he didn’t think Binion took his own life intentionally. He talked to the police about how he had seen him just several days earlier.
Binion explained how he had plans to move on to new challenges and was making plans for fur ventures. So, he didn’t have the impression that he was talking to a man who was about to give up on everything.
Sandy Murphy wasn’t a suspect at first, as the two were in a long-term and public relationship.
That said, the police already previously suspected that Binion had involved Murphy in many illegal activities, most notably using her as a bag woman for his trades with the mob.
But, the police found it strange that Binion’s body didn’t show typical signs of a drug overdose.
Although he had heroin in his stomach, the police thought that no one, neither an addict nor a person trying to commit suicide, would have heroin in their stomach that way.
A few days after Binion’s death, the police started getting calls telling them about unusual activities on Binion’s estate.
This pertained to a 33-year-old trucking operator called Rick Tabish, who claimed that Binion instructed him to dig up the wealth he buried and move it to a nearby location if anything ever happens to Binion.
Tabish defended himself claiming that he called the police prior to doing so and telling them what he was planning on doing.
While the police confirmed this soon after, they were left doubting Tabish’s motives. They still thought that he purposely called them to establish an alibi and make himself look like he didn’t have anything to hide.
The Investigation After Binion’s Death
While the police doubted that the case wasn’t as open and shut as it first seemed, the officials still didn’t want to launch a full investigation even months after Binion’s death.
But, the mounting evidence changed this the following year.
As Binion’s brother and sister unsuccessfully urged law enforcement agencies to open an investigation, the tipping point came when the county coroner reclassified the case as a homicide in May 1999.
Detectives launched an investigation and soon collected enough evidence and testimonies to have their prime suspects, Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish.
The police were highly suspicious of the two, thinking that they were romantically involved. This suspicion was solidified when they were told that Binion was doubting Murphy for months and thought that she was cheating on him.
In June 1999, Binion’s girlfriend Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish were arrested for his murder as well as several other felonies, including conspiracy.
The prosecution formed a case that the two conspired to drug Binion and suffocate him without leaving any marks of violence.
Ted Binion Death – Trial and Retrial
While the two were arrested in the summer of 1999, the trial didn’t begin until the spring of the next year.
In May 2000, after two months of trial, Murphy and Tabish were found guilty. Both received rigorous sentences, with Murphy getting 22 years to life, and Tabish receiving 25 to life in prison.
However, two years later, in July 2003, the Nevada Supreme Court overruled this verdict.
The court ruled that there were issues with the way the instructions were presented to the jury, so it couldn’t have made the proper decisions in the case.
Moreover, it was determined that Tabish should have received a separate trial regarding his other charges of assaulting a different businessman around the same time.
While these new decisions stirred up the public, the two defendants had to wait more than a year to get a retrial.
In the retrial that occurred in October 2004, both Murphy and Tabish were acquitted of Binion’s murder. However, both were found guilty on lesser charges.
Both of them were convicted of burglary and grand larceny, crimes that carry up to five years in prison. Additionally, Tabish was found guilty of the use of a deadly weapon, which also carries a sentence of up to five years.
Tabish and Murphy Get Released
After the disorderly trial and retrial, both Murphy and Tabish got off with lighter sentences on the second go. As Murphy was sentenced to time served, she didn’t return to prison after the retrial.
Tabish’s story was much more tumultuous. He was denied parole three times, in 2001, 2004, and in 2005.
He received another parole hearing five years later, in 2010. Less than two weeks after his parole hearing, the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners announced that Tabish would get out of prison on parole. He was 44 years old when he got out.
Ted Binion’s Death in Mainstream Media
Of course, such a widely publicized death and controversial trial attracted great media attention.
It served as a topic or was referenced in numerous gambling movies and other contemporary works. In 2001, a CSI episode used one of the death theories that the prosecution had in the trial.
This episode was so popular that it’s speculated it had an impact on the decision during the retrial.
More specifically, news outlets reported that the jurors in the retrial avoided proclaiming Tabish and Murphy guilty because the prosecution’s forensic evidence wasn’t up to the standards of that presented in the television show.
Several authors covered the case in their books. This most notably includes Cathy Scott in Death in the Desert, Gary C. King in An Early Grave, and James McManus in Positively Fifth Street.
Many other shows, documentaries, and books mentioned the event, although it hasn’t received notable attention in the last decade.
The Buried Treasure Uncovered After Binion’s Death
Another aspect that adds to the already mysterious circumstances of Binion’s life and death was the buried treasure that the sheriff’s deputies uncovered after the death of Ted Binion.
On a piece of property that Ted Binion owned, the deputies found a twelve-foot-deep vault on the desert floor.
Once they opened the bunker, the deputies were shocked to see items worth between $7 and $14 million in total. This included six tons of silver, Horseshoe Casino chips, rare coins, paper currency, and other items.
This uncovered treasure played a big role in the murder investigation, as the only two people that had access to the vault were Binion and Tabish.
Moreover, there’s also the unresolved case when Tabish tried to unearth the silver with a couple of other associates, as detectives couldn’t pinpoint the motives they had to do so.
There’s no telling how many millions Binion exactly hid in and around his Las Vegas home, as all items that were known to exist went missing after he died.
Binion’s daughter received much of the silver, but a large portion of the items found in the desert vault still remains unclaimed to this day.
Ted Binion’s Legacy
More than 20 years after Ted Binion died and close to 20 years after the retrial, we still can’t say for sure what happened.
Some claim that Murphy and Tabish carried out their plot successfully and got away with significantly lighter sentences than they should have received.
Others say that this was just a bundle of freak coincidences that ended the tragic life of one of Las Vegas’ biggest playboys and casino operators in the 80s and 90s. Hopefully, the truth gets discovered sometime in the future.
There aren’t many positives to draw out from Binion’s life. He was a gun nut but technically wasn’t allowed to own one.
Despite this, most of the time, he carried a pistol in one pocket and a sawed-off shotgun in another.
He was also remembered as a friendly person who knew most of his casino customers by name. Many people also say that he was known to help people who were in difficult financial situations.
He was a math whiz, with many employees stating that he could easily calculate the house take without any assistance.
Ultimately, Ted Binion left an unenviable legacy behind him and will mostly be remembered for the poor decisions he made in his life.
He was a colorful and eccentric character that simply let himself get carried away by the lifestyle and involved himself with people he should have stayed away from.