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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Others yet unnamed...
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
December 15, 2003

LAS VEGAS - The retrial of Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish is expected to draw hoards of national media back to Sin City. In response to an appeal filed by Murphy and Tabish's attorneys, the Nevada Supreme Court last summer overturned the May, 2000 guilty verdict that convicted the duo of first degree murder in the death of Horseshoe casino owner Ted Binion. The high court then remanded the case back for a second trial. Both defendants continue to profess their innocence.

Though the appeal court found that the first trial was severely flawed, they still remanded the case back to the original judge. Clark County District Court Judge Joseph Bonaventure has often been accused of bias in this case, and was once asked to step down. He refused. The retrial is expected to take place in his court later this year.
Murphy and Tabish wave at family members in court     Judge Bonaventure admonishes Murphy

Through sources that wish to remain anonymous, INSIDE VEGAS obtained exclusive copies of Nevada Gaming Control Board Intelligence Reports, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Report, and an answering machine tape that for unknown reasons were not entered into evidence at the first trial. The documents and tape may shed light on others yet unnamed who had severe animus toward Binion, and as some believe, should be considered suspects in his mysterious death.

According to Murphy, in 1998, three unwelcome visitors were ordered off Ted Binion's Palomino Lane property at gunpoint. The visitors reportedly included Ted's brother-in-law Nick Behnen and his son Benny, along with Grover "Chance" LeSueur.

The obvious animosity between the Behnens and Ted Binion surfaced publicly in June of 1997 when Binion filed a police report accusing his nephew and several others of participating in a drive-by shooting at his estate.

One of the accused drive-by shooters, "Chance" LeSueur, is referred to on the answering machine tape. On the tape, Nick Behnen reportedly told LeSueur, "Trust me. You're not going to throw down. You come to rob me...Now you tell this guy this. You ever had this gun to you before?...Oh you think this is funny. Cause this is how they look, this is how they read out of the book see, this just like it happens, everybody just kind of visits and then pretty soon -- pop."

LeSueur was reportedly being held against his will at the time of the taped calls.

Following the drive-by shooting, LeSueur was initially charged with attempted murder, but eventually pleaded guilty to lesser charges. On May 24, 2001, LeSueur, was found dead of unknown causes in Mesa, Arizona. He was 24.

 Behnens grieving at trial (L to R) Benny, Becky, & Nick

In confidential state Gaming Control Board documents, Murphy described an event wherein she claimed to witness Nick and Benny Behnen visiting Ted Binion's house. She said both Behnens were intoxicated and engaged in a "screaming match" with Binion in the garage. Binion reportedly grabbed a shotgun and cocked it saying "Get the hell out of here." The Behnen's left the property, however Nick Behnen called Ted later that night and left the eleven messages on his answering machine.

In another incident according to Murphy, a Behnen associate named Russell "R.D." Matthews came over to Binion's house with Benny Behnen wishing to talk to Ted. She said she opened the door "like a dummy." They allegedly forced their way in. Murphy stated, "I tried to shut the door on them, but they pushed me aside. I said Ted is in his room sleeping, but he got up and began yelling at R.D. and Benny, and it got to be a scene. Then R.D. left and told Ted that he was 'going to be sorry.'"

To fuel further speculation that persons other than Murphy and Tabish may have had reason to dispose of Binion; the day before his Sept. 17, 1998 death, Binion gave $50,000 to an unsuccessful candidate for Nevada Governor. It was thought that if the candidate -- then Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones -- won the election, she would reinstate Binion's gaming license prompting speculation that he might try to take back the Horseshoe from his sister and her family, a family that was becoming increasingly dysfunctional. This, at a time when the Horseshoe had been losing money continuously since the unfriendly takeover by the rival sibling -- though Becky Behnen strongly denied the business was in dire straights before or after her brother's death.


Also, had Murphy not been convicted of his murder, she would have inherited a large portion of Binion's multimillion-dollar estate including his mansion where it was suspected that he had buried treasure. Because of her conviction, Binion's entire fortune went to his family members, some of whom later squandered it away.

After the trial, the Horseshoe continued to fall on hard times while 24 year old Benny was often spotted at expensive stores making extravagant purchases and throwing money around at night clubs and restaurants.

In the meantime, the IRS just placed a tax lien on the 52-year-old downtown casino claiming the Behnens have yet to pay $5 million in past due payroll taxes. In addition, the Behnens are in a legal battle with the Fremont Street Experience over more than $2.5 million in unpaid dues to the pedestrian mall. The property also has been behind on lease payments owed to landlords, and behind on employee's health care premiums. Even the much photographed Million Dollar Horseshoe display was cashed in to keep the casino afloat.

Unidentified men pose in front of
now-dismantled Million Dollar
Horseshoe display  (LV SUN)

Now that the casino is unable to financially support candidates running for public office -- candidates that have long included District Court Judges and District Attorneys -- or pay witnesses up to $20,000 each to testify, the upcoming retrial is expected to be unencumbered by political influence. If so, newly acquired information about other persons who may have wanted to see Binion out of the way, or the distinct possibility that he actually died of an overdose of narcotics as was first thought, may finally bring this sordid story to an equitable conclusion.

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