ByMelissa Thomas, writer at
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Melissa Thomas

Another true crime has become the inspiration for Hollywood; this time it is the high-profile murder of casino king, Lonnie "Ted" Binion that has remained unsolved since 1998. Michael Madsen (The Hateful Eight) is starring in Death in the Desert along side Shayla Beesley (Sex and the USA) and John Palladino (Experimenter).

The Real-Life Murder

Murphy, Binion and Tabish
Murphy, Binion and Tabish

Nevada casino millionaire and former Horseshoe Casino boss Lonnie "Ted" Binion was found dead in his Las Vegas penthouse on September 17, 1998. Next to his body, authorities found an empty bottle of Xanax and a heroine kit in his bathroom.

His live-in girlfriend, 26-year old former stripper Sandy Murphy, was the one that discovered his body and called the police. She told them that Binion had been suffering from depression since the loss of his gambling licence due to allegations of being involved in organized crime, making his death look like a suicide. Suspicions were aroused when Binion's friend and business associate, Rick Tabish, was arrested while cleaning out Binion's vault.

The results of Binion's toxicology screening came back to reveal that he had a lethal dose of both Xanax and heroine in his system (there was enough of each substance in his body to kill him on their own). This prompted authorities to rule his death a homicide. Both Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish became the prime suspects as there were speculations of an affair between the two, Binion had his lawyer remove Murphy from his will, Tabish wanted his money and Tabish had placed a call to Murphy's cell phone just minutes before she called the police to report the body. Both were arrested, but there was not enough evidence to convict either of them for murder. The case is still unsolved.

The Film- Death in the Desert

Michael Madsen stars as legendary casino owner Ray Easler (based on Binion). In the film, Easler inherits a casino and a fortune worth of silver. His live-in girlfriend falls for the hired help and the pair see dollar signs when they learn of the fortune in the vault under the casino. Greed and forbidden love lead to a murder mystery like no other.

Death in the Desert promises to be a thrill ride of epic proportions. Ray Easler is just the character type that Madsen is perfect for, and coming off the success of The Hateful Eight, he is one to watch.

Death in the Desert was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Josh Evans (Che Guevara). The film is set for VOD release on February 16th from Osiris Entertainment.


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