CRISTALLI SAGGESE MURPHY
Joe Cavaretta  /  AP
Defendant Sandy Murphy, right, reacts along with her attorneys Michael Cristalli, left, and Marc Saggese, center, as the jury reads its verdict Tuesday in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas.
updated 11/23/2004 4:38:17 PM ET 2004-11-23T21:38:17

A former stripper and her lover were acquitted Tuesday of murdering casino heir Ted Binion, who prosecutors say was drugged and suffocated in a plot to steal a $7 million cache of silver bars and coins he had buried in the desert.

The jury found the suspects guilty of conspiracy, grand larceny and burglary. Jurors deliberated over parts of four days before reaching the verdict against Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish.

They could have gotten life in prison without parole if convicted of murder. It was not immediately clear how much time they could face for the other charges.

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.

During the six-week trial, prosecutors portrayed Murphy as Binion's greedy girlfriend who was having an affair with his friend Tabish, a former contractor from Montana.

Prosecutors said the two hatched a plot to kill 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.

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

In throwing out the earlier convictions, the state Supreme Court ruled that the judge made a mistake in not forcing prosecutors to try an extortion case against Tabish separately. Justices said the extortion evidence unfairly prejudiced the jury.

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 he lost his gaming license over allegations of drug use and ties to a mob figure.

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