Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Ted Binion

Real Name: Lonnie Theodore Binion
Nicknames: Ted
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: September 17, 1998


Details: Nevada casino millionaire and former Binion's Horseshoe Casino boss Ted Binion was found dead in his Las Vegas penthouse on September 17, 1998, with an empty Xanax bottle by his side and heroin paraphernalia in the bathroom. The scene made authorities assume that he had died of an accidental overdose or suicide. His live-in girlfriend, twenty-six-year-old former stripper Sandy Murphy, had found his body and called 911. She claimed that he was depressed because of the loss of his gambling license, which he lost in March 1998. He allegedly did so because of his involvement with organized crime, heroin, and unsavory characters. He was forced to sell his shares of the casino to his sister.
Despite the problems with his casino and personal life, most of Ted's family and friends did not believe that he would have committed suicide. They were also suspicious of the accidental overdose theory. Toxicology reports released two weeks after his death showed he had lethal amounts of both Xanax and heroin in his body. This was an improbable combination for him because he apparently only used Xanax to get off of heroin; he would not have taken them at the same time. Also, the coroner found heroin in his stomach. This was suspicious because he was known to smoke heroin, not ingest it.
Investigators began to look into Ted and Sandy's relationship. They met while she was stripping. Their relationship was tumultuous. On the day of his death, everything seemed normal. However, at about 9am, Sandy called their housekeeper, telling her that she did not need to come into work that day because Ted was not feeling well. At around noon, his friend, Barbara Brown, called, asking if he was there. Sandy said that he was very ill and vomiting. She claimed that he did not want anyone to see him because he was losing weight. Barbara didn't believe this because she talked to him several times that week and he seemed fine. She felt that Sandy was trying to prevent her from coming over. She called again at 2PM and 3:40PM, but there was no answer.
After his death, allegations surfaced that Ted had suspicions about Sandy. He contacted a private investigator and asked him to follow her around. He discovered that she may have been having an affair with his friend and business associate, Rick Tabish. They were seen together at a hotel the weekend before his death. The day before it, he contacted his attorney and told him to cut Sandy out of his will. Specifically, he stated, "Take Sandy out of the will. If she doesn't kill me tonight...If I'm dead you'll know what happened."
Forty-eight hours after Ted's death, Rick, along with two others, were arrested while trying to empty his underground vault. He claimed that Ted had told him if anything ever happened to him, he should dig up the silver, turn it into cash, and put into a trust fund for Ted's daughter. In March 1999, based on observations that Ted's body and scene had been tampered with, his death was ruled a homicide and remains under investigation. Investigators have found some evidence that he may have died as much as nine hours before Sandy called 911. This meant that when Barbara called and talked to her, he was probably already dead. Private investigator Tom Dillard discovered that Sandy took a phone call from Rick eight minutes before she called 911. The prime suspects in the case are them; however, nobody has been charged and the case remains unsolved.

Suspects: Sandy and Rick are the prime suspects in Ted's death. They were reportedly having an affair and a housekeeper claims that Sandy had told her not to come in on the day of Ted's death. Barbara talked to Sandy that day, but she refused to let her see him. He also instructed his attorney to take her out of his will the day before his death, which may have motivated her to kill him. Phone records show that Rick placed a call to her cell phone minutes before she called the police to report Ted's death.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the May 28, 1999 episode.
  • This murder was also profiled on America’s Most Wanted during the investigation and documented on episodes of 48 Hours, Snapped, On the Case with Paula Zahn, Snapped Killer Couples, and Dateline.
  • The case also served as a basis for a Second Season episode ("Busted") of the CBS-TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Results: Solved. After extensive forensic work by forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, it was discovered that Ted had actually been suffocated to death, based on marks on his body. In June of 1999, Rick and Sandy were arrested for his murder. They were also charged with burglary and grand larceny. At their trials, prosecutors presented a video of Sandy taken just one day after Ted's death. It, taken by her civil attorney, showed her going through items in his house, pointing out some that were hers and some that she wanted. The video, according to prosecutors, showed her true character. In it, she appeared to be more concerned about her possessions than about Ted's death.
Several witnesses testified that they had heard Sandy loudly declaring that Ted would soon die of an overdose and that she would be coming into a lot of money. Witnesses also testified that Rick had severe financial problems, which would have given him a motive to kill Ted and steal his silver. Two witnesses also testified that he had talked about killing Ted and asked for their help. They were convicted of all charges and sentenced to life in prison in 2000.
However, they were granted a new trial in 2004. They were both acquitted of Ted's murder but were found guilty of lesser charges of conspiracy to commit murder, burglary, and grand larceny. Sandy was sentenced to one-to-five years but was released for time already served. Rick, who was already serving time for unrelated crimes, received up to ten years. He has since been released.