Star witness in Binion case in jail

LAS VEGAS - A key witness in the Ted Binion murder case was arrested early Thursday and charged with battery against his girlfriend.

Steven Kurt Gratzer, 36, was arrested at the Sahara hotel-casino about 1:12 a.m. and later booked into jail on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge. He was being held on $3,000 bail.

Police spokesman Tirso Dominguez said Gratzer's girlfriend was not injured seriously. The girlfriend's name was not released, and Dominguez did not know whether the woman lives in Las Vegas or Montana, where Gratzer resides.

Gratzer, a childhood friend of Rick Tabish, testified Tuesday that Tabish offered him money to help kill Binion, a former casino executive.

Tabish, a Missoula, Mont., contractor, and Sandra Murphy, are charged with Binion's Sept. 17, 1998, murder. Murphy was Binion's live-in girlfriend.

Prosecutors believe Tabish, 35, and Murphy, 28, forced Binion to ingest heroin and the prescription drug Xanax, then suffocated him because they wanted to steal his fortune.

The defense claims Binion died of an overdose, either by accident or in a suicide attempt.

Clark County District Attorney Stewart Bell said Gratzer's arrest would not affect the trial.

John Momot, Murphy's attorney, said he thinks Gratzer is a ''candidate to do something violent.''

''This is consistent with his type of conduct,'' Momot said.

Meanwhile, prosecutors on Thursday called a security guard at a Jean sand pit to testify that he discovered a makeshift grave shortly after Tabish, Leo Casey and Steven Wadkins drove to the area on July 28, 1998.

Arlee Booher, 70, said he heard a piece of diesel equipment start up a short time after the three drove past him.

When he drove to the sand pit, he testified that he saw a 2-foot hole in the ground.

''It was just as long as the front-end loader was long,'' Booher said.

Casey later testified that the grave was intended for him.

Tabish and Wadkins tortured him, Casey said, and threatened to bury him in the grave if he didn't turn over his interest in the sand pit to Tabish.

Casey testified that he was beaten while thumbcuffed. The pair shoved a gun barrel in his mouth and tortured him by sticking the blade of a knife under his fingernails, he said.

Tabish and Wadkins are co-defendants in the alleged torture of Casey that night.


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