48 Hours: Buried Secrets of Las Vegas

Sex, Drugs, Greed and the Biggest Murder Mystery in Las Vegas History

Las Vegas real estate agent Cristine Lefkowitz has been trying to sell Ted Binion's house for years.

"2908 Palomino Lane is a very interesting property," she said. "We're offering it at $1.8 million."

It's a tough sell in today's market and you've got to be creative, especially a house with a history like this one: It's rumored that there is treasure buried somewhere on the property.

"Um, well, we always had cash because, you know, we would spend cash," said Sandy Murphy.

When Sandy moved in with Ted, she started living a life with all the perks of Las Vegas royalty - a new Mercedes and diamond jewelry.

And, according to Glenn Puit, "a spending account, fine dining, champagne."

Sandy said she didn't fall in love with Ted because of who he was and she didn't fall in love with his money.

"Oh, I just fell in love with the guy and all the stuff came after," she replied.

Ted's sister, Becky Binion Behnen, believed Sandy was a calculating gold digger and made no bones about it.

"Money. She sees money," Becky said. "She'd say things to me like, 'I wouldn't be with any old man unless he was rich.'"

When asked if she ever said anything about it to Ted, Becky replied, "Oh, Ted knew. But Ted liked that she was young."

"Did he have some of the charisma like your father did?" asked Van Sant.

"Yeah," Becky replied.

"Knew where every dollar was, where every dollar was going," Puit said of Ted. "But he wasn't his father. His father was a pioneer. Teddy was trying to live that legacy."

The truth is Ted never came close, because along with his brilliance as a casino manager came a far darker side; his association with known gangsters and his deadly addiction to heroin.

Said Sandy, "He would smoke it. His favorite kind was the black tar heroin."

Unlike most addicts, Ted had a nearly unlimited bankroll and he could afford to "chase the dragon" - a wasteful method of smoking heroin involving squares of foil.

More than heroin would soon go up in smoke as Ted's addiction became known to the authorities. They'd investigate, and in 1998, the Nevada State Gaming Commission revoked Ted's casino license. He was barred from the floor of The Horseshoe and the whole town knew he couldn't go into his father's casino.

Peter Van Sant tours the legendary Las Vegas casino

"You couldn't have done anything, possibly short of killing a child or molesting a nun, that would have carried the frowns and the uh-oh," said Wayne Newton.

Ted stepped up his heroin use and the fairytale on Palomino Lane seemed to come to an end for Sandy.

"He just became a guy I didn't really know. You know? Like a stranger," she told Van Sant.

So why didn't she leave? "I don't know. It's a weird thing when you love someone and they're having a hard time."

Ted's life became a closed and shadowy world. But a new person was allowed to gain entry. Ted Binion met Rick Tabish in a most unusual place.

"Teddy met Rick at a urinal," according to Puit. "He was relieving himself. He looked over and there was Rick Tabish."

The two men shared an interest in Montana where Rick grew up and Ted spent summers at a family ranch. But Tabish, a smooth-talking business man, was, in fact, a convicted felon with a record for theft.

"Teddy started giving him jobs, you know, odd jobs here and there to do things for him," Sandy explained. "For example, he's the one who built the vault."

The vault was for Ted Binion's silver. Depending who you ask, Ted had between $7 to $14 million worth of silver bars and coins stacked up at his father's casino.

The Binion family still owned The Horseshoe, but Ted was banned there since he'd lost his gaming license. So he decided to move his silver to the sleepy desert town with the unlikely name of Pahrump, Nev., where Rick Tabish helped him build a bizarre underground vault in an empty lot Ted owned between a Burger King and a casino.

According to Puit, only two people knew the combination to that vault in Pahrump: Rick Tabish and Ted Binion.

"When he took the silver from the casino, I called my sister, and I said, 'If you and Jack let him take the silver from this casino, you're gonna get him killed," Becky told Van Sant. "I never said who would kill him. But I had strong feelings about Sandy. I didn't know that much about Rick at the time, but I did not trust this girl."

Apparently, Teddy trusted Sandy to the point where he wrote her into his will.

"You know, to put her in his will was insane. Just absolutely insane," said Becky.

"Did you think it was inviting something?" asked Van Sant.

"Yes I did."

Then on Sept. 17, 1998, at 3:55 p.m., a call came into a 911 operator in Las Vegas.

Listen to the 911 call

The hysterical voice was Sandy Murphy's. Moments before, she claimed she found Ted Binion on the floor - cold as ice and surrounded by drug paraphernalia.

"Like I kinda rolled him over, you know, and I just started to panic because he wasn't breathing," she explained.

Across town at The Horseshoe, Becky got word that something happened to her brother.

"I heard that the coroner's office was in front of Ted's house," she said. "So I called the coroner's office. And then they told me, 'Yes it's - Ted is dead.'"

By all initial appearances, it seemed like an open-and-shut case: suicide or accidental death of a life-long addict by lethal overdose.

Ted's sister had other ideas. She pressed the cops for further investigation and told the press this wasn't an overdose. "And I asked 'em, 'Please consider this a homicide till proven otherwise'"

Two days later, a series of bizarre events in the desert, 60 miles from Las Vegas, blew the case wide open.