No evidentiary hearing to be scheduled for missing underwear

LAS VEGAS - A judge brought the saga of Sandra Murphy's missing panties to an end Monday, but not before warning prosecutors to let him know if they ever turn up.

District Judge Joseph Bonaventure declined to hold an evidentiary hearing on the missing underwear, which emerged earlier this month as a bizarre sidelight in the death of gambling heir Ted Binion.

But Bonaventure told prosecutors to inform him before conducting tests on the missing underwear if it ever shows up.

Ms. Murphy, who is charged in the killing of Binion, her live-in lover, claimed the underwear disappeared while she was serving a week-long jail stint last month for violating the terms of her house arrest.

Her attorney, John Momot, filed a motion requesting prosecutors return Murphy's underwear, saying he didn't believe they were missing because of negligence.

''It appears to me they (Clark County Detention Center booking officers) don't have clothing of all sorts strewn about ... otherwise it would be quite a mess,'' said Momot. ''I suppose if it were socks missing I wouldn't be here.''

The nature of the missing garment and the potential of someone to use that garment for DNA testing prompted the hearing, said Momot.

Because the Binion family is financing its own murder investigation, Momot claims, that there are others with a motive to seize the underwear.

Prosecutors did not present a case.

''We have no desire to address this matter any further,'' said David Roger, Clark County chief deputy district attorney.

''I don't think our judicial system should be used as a three-ring circus,'' Roger told the Associated Press last week.

Bonaventure, though, said the issue was potentially important, although he initially thought it was a waste of the court's time.

''Mr. Momot would not have been representing his client effectively if he had not brought this before the court,'' Bonaventure said. ''I commend Mr. Momot for his representation of his client and his diligence.''

Because there was no evidence to prove prosecutors were in possession of the garment, Bonaventure dismissed the motion to suppress and return the defendant's underwear.

Ms. Murphy, 27, a former topless dancer, and her reported lover, Rick Tabish, 34, are charged in the Sept. 17, 1998, murder of Binion at his Las Vegas home. They are scheduled to go to trial on March 13.

Both defendants were arrested in June. Ms. Murphy was released under house arrest on $300,000 cash bail in July. She spent a week in jail last month after a judge criticized her ''cavalier attitude'' in failing to notify a corrections officer of her whereabouts.

Momot's motion said Ms. Murphy's clothes were confiscated when she was booked into the Clark County Detention Center. She stuffed the panties in a pocket of her jeans, and the items were stored in a plastic bag that was then closed.

When she checked out, the panties were no longer in the bag, Momot said.

Prosecutors contend Binion, a member of a prominent Las Vegas casino family, was forced to ingest potentially lethal amounts of heroin and the prescription sedative Xanax and was suffocated.


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