Wednesday, July 7, 1999 | 5 a.m.
Justice of the Peace Jennifer Togliatti said Wednesday she will issue a decision from the bench at 9:30 a.m. Thursday on whether to set bail for Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish on charges of murdering Ted Binion.
Togliatti heard arguments from both sides for nearly two hours Wednesday on the bail issue.
Prosecutors called Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish flight risks and a danger to the community in court papers opposing their efforts Wednesday to obtain bail on charges of murdering Ted Binion.
"The defendants are now privy to the vast amount of evidence establishing their guilt," Chief Deputy District Attorney David Roger said in an eight-page brief filed Tuesday in Justice Court. "The defendants may face the death penalty. The stakes are high, and the risk of flight is great."
Defense lawyers Bill Terry and Steve Wolfson, seeking the release of their clients on $100,000 bail or less, insisted in their court papers that Murphy and Tabish were not inclined to flee, and they attacked the prosecution's case as weak and circumstantial.
But Roger said Murphy, to whom Binion once willed his $900,000 home and contents, and Tabish, a contractor who comes from a wealthy family in Montana, have access to "significant sums of money" that could pave the way for them to flee.
Murphy, who lived with Binion for several years, bragged to jail employees that she would be able to post bail whether it was as much as $2 million in cash, Roger said.
And in the days after Binion's murder, he added, security officers stationed at the former gaming executive's 2408 Palomino Lane home found Murphy's purse containing her passport in the back yard.
Roger said Murphy has contacted witnesses in the investigation and urged them to recant statements, and for the first time he brought up Murphy's reported violent tendencies.
He said she threatened the life of Binion's brother-in-law, Nick Behnen, prior to Binion's death.
The threat, in which Murphy reportedly warned Behnen to keep his mouth shut or find himself "dead on the streets," was conveyed in a telephone call to the secretary of Behnen's wife, Horseshoe Club President Becky Behnen.
Murphy told Becky Behnen's secretary to tell her husband to "watch the pigeons" at the end of the movie, "Bonnie and Clyde," Roger said.
Roger also reported another threat Murphy allegedly made during a telephone conversation between Binion and Janice Mahoney, a former girlfriend.
Murphy, who was eavesdropping on the conversation, jumped in after Mahoney urged Binion not to include Murphy in his will.
"Listen, you cottage cheese ass, red-headed, has-been from hell, ugly old bitch," Murphy reportedly said. "Who do you think you are? I'm going to kill you."
Murphy then told Mahoney she was going to go to her home and shoot her in the head with a shotgun while she was sleeping, Roger said.
Tabish, Roger said, also has displayed violent behavior.
Roger referred to a 109-page police affidavit filed in the murder case that describes the alleged torture of Leo Casey to force him to turn over his interests in a sand pit in Jean.
The move to take over the sand pit was expensive and described by Roger as Tabish's motive for killing Binion.
Less than two months before Binion's Sept. 17 murder, Tabish and Steven Lee Wadkins, who is charged with Tabish in the Casey torture and extortion, threatened to kill Casey and his loved ones by either "cutting off" or "blowing off" their heads, Roger said.
Roger alleged that Murphy and Tabish "engaged in a romantic and conspiratorial relationship" and committed a "signature crime" in stealing Binion's silver fortune in Pahrump and valuables from his Las Vegas home after his murder.
Binion estate attorneys, Roger said, found a single silver dollar in the underground vault in Pahrump and one dime in his safe at home. Tabish and two other men were arrested before they could cart away the $4 million in silver. But the valuables in Las Vegas, including a $300,000 collection of rare coins and currency, have never been found.
Roger reiterated other circumstantial evidence in the police affidavit pointing Murphy and Tabish as Binion's killers, including their alleged efforts to stage the death scene.
"Medical evidence suggests that the killers moved Ted Binion's body many hours after his death," Roger said.
Murphy reported discovering his body at 3:55 p.m. Sept. 17 next to an empty bottle of the prescription sedative, Xanax. Drug tests conducted by the coroner later found lethal levels of both Xanax and heroin in his stomach. Binion was known to smoke heroin, not ingest it.
Terry, meanwhile, contended in his 10-page brief, that prosecutors will have a tough time proving his client committed the murder, and he shed some light on his client's defense.
"This is not a case where someone is shot or stabbed and the cause of death is obvious," Terry said. "Even the affidavit ... makes it clear that Mr. Binion was a heroin addict. He had been a heroin addict and remained a heroin addict until the time of his death."
Terry said that it is a "simple reality of life" that drug addicts overdose.
"At the time of the hearings in the instant case," he said, "it will be shown that there would have been no reason for Ms. Murphy to have killed or participated in the death of Mr. Binion since it was he who supported her for an extensive period of time and the relationship was such that if the motive was simply money, it would have been better for Mr. Binion to have remained alive as opposed to have been murdered."
Terry asked Togliatti to release Murphy on $100,000 bail with tight supervision, even house arrest or electronic monitoring.
He said Murphy needs to be free to help in her defense and has "every intention of remaining available for trial."
Murphy, he added, has more to lose, including her inheritance from the Binion estate, by fleeing than remaining in Nevada.
"The state's case is weak enough, and the last thing Ms. Murphy wants to do is provide them with circumstantial evidence of a guilty state of mind," he said.
Wolfson said Tabish also has no desire to flee and is "looking forward to having his day in court and defending against these charges."
Wolfson insisted his client also is not a threat to the community.
"Ask yourself this question," Wolfson told Togliatti. "If the defendant was such a danger to the community, why did the state of Nevada wait 10 months before arresting the defendant?"