LAS VEGAS - Casino executive Ted Binion had bouts with heroin that led to spousal abuse and a chance meeting with the topless dancer now accused of killing him, his ex-wife testified Monday.
Doris Binion was the leadoff witness in the government's effort to prosecute Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish in the Sept. 17, 1998 slaying of Ted Binion, a member of a famous casino family.
The ex-wife said she met Binion in 1965 and they began living together the next year, marrying in 1980. She said Binion used heroin daily from 1980 to 1987, prompting her to leave with their young daughter in 1983.
''I told him he had problems,'' Mrs. Binion sobbed. ''I told him he was ruining his life and others. He said he would shoot himself if I didn't come home. He promised he'd quit if we came home.''
Doris Binion said she returned but not much changed. Binion continued to drink heavily and use heroin, often making late-night visits to bars and gentleman's clubs while under the influence.
She later divorced Binion a dozen years later when he accused her of having an affair with her personal trainer, and he began an affair of his own with Murphy, a dancer at a topless bar.
Mrs. Binion testified she admitted to an affair at one time when Binion was beating her, just to get him to quit. She said she never called police because Binion warned he would kill her if she did. At one time, she said he threatened to brand her.
Under questioning by Clark County Deputy District Attorney David Roger, she denied having the affair.
The ex-wife said Binion had guns scattered throughout their house, both for protection and as a hobby.
Binion kept a shotgun under his bed and another on each side of the bed, ''one for each of us,'' she laughed. He also kept a handgun on the table beside the bed.
She said he kept $50,000 or more around the house and once stashed $250,000 in the top of a fishing boat motor. He buried about $5 million in silver and rare coins in an underground vault on land he owned along a well-traveled road at Pahrump, Nev., 60 west of here.
Murphy defense attorney John Momot quizzed Doris Binion extensively on support payments she received from the Binion estate, prompting District Judge Joseph Bonaventure to question Momot's cross-examination.
''I don't know what we're in here, a criminal trial or a motion for temporary support,'' the judge said.
She said she ended up with a $5 million settlement from their divorce.
Murphy paid rapt attention and often scribbled notes for Momot during the first day of witness testimony in a trial that could take eight weeks.
Mrs. Binion said after she moved out, she returned to the family home to retrieve some belongings and found Murphy in charge.
Murphy had taken yellow tape like that used at crime scenes and cordoned off various rooms in the house. Doris Binion said there were four bodyguards on hand to prevent her from roaming the house or taking anything else.
Joshua Landish, the attorney who handled Mrs. Binion's divorce, recounted information he had gathered on Murphy for the divorce proceedings. He said Murphy had lived in Bellflower, Calif., until she moved in with a boyfriend in Huntington Beach, Calif., after high school graduation.
Landish said Murphy testified in a divorce deposition that she came to Las Vegas with a girlfriend, spent $13,000 gambling, then approached Cheetah's, a topless club, about selling costumes to dancers. When that failed, Landish testified Murphy began dancing at the club and earned the $13,000 back in two weeks, doing table dances in a VIP room and working the club's main showroom.
It was there she met Binion.
The attorney said $1,700 came from Binion, who invited her to move in shortly after his wife left.
Murphy lived with Binion from April 1995 until his death 39 months later.
Prosecutors contend Murphy and Tabish became involved in an affair. The state claims Binion ordered his attorney to cut Murphy out of his will when he learned of the affair. Prosecutors claim he was killed the next day by being forced to ingest a lethal dose of heroin and the prescription anti-depressant Xanax.
Defense attorneys contend Binion's long history of heroin use caught up with him, and he overdosed accidentally or committed suicide.