Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2019

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From courtroom to bookshelf

Vegas cases have resulted in books and TV movies

Margaret Rudin

Sam Morris

Margaret Rudin.

When Margaret Rudin was on trial for killing her husband, Ron Rudin, in 2001, she wrote a poem. It begins with what she prayed for most: to have the legal proceedings move forward in “days of unclouded truth.” She recorded other hopes and observations from the situation she found herself in, concluding,

“What we face, in front of national TV cameras, is the welcome intervention of the media to help keep participants in the courtroom theater true to its justice theme.”

Turns out the true-crime genre requires less poetic justice than easy-bake bewitching mystery, which Vegas cooks up well. Rudin’s jealous-wife story received plenty of media during and after the 2001 trial in which she was sentenced to life in prison. There was a TV movie, Snapped: Margaret Rudin, on Oxygen in 2007; an entire CBS 48 Hours Mysteries episode, “Murder in Las Vegas: Did She Do it?” in November of 2001; and the trial itself was covered exhaustively on Court TV as the “Black Widow Murder Trial.”

So now that Rudin has been granted a new trial by District Judge Sally Loehrer, one wonders whether the story of the Las Vegas woman whose husband’s charred bones turned up near Lake Mohave will set off a new round of true-crime products. There have been a bundle.

Here’s a list of notable high-profile, Vegas-based cases that produced plentiful true-crime offerings:

Tupac Shakur

After the rapper was killed in a drive-by shooting near the Strip in 1996, a slew of books and movies were made. Among them:

The paperback The Killing of Tupac Shakur by Cathy Scott (1997), and the documentary Tupac: Assassination, produced by Frank Alexander and RJ Bond, released on DVD in 2007.

Kelly Ryan and Craig Titus

When the Las Vegas bodybuilders were charged with killing their assistant and friend in 2006, the books and movies were quick:

• Paperback: Killer Bodies: A Glamorous Bodybuilding Couple, a Love Triangle, and a Brutal Murder by Michael Fleeman (2007);

• Paperback: Fire In The Desert: The True Story of the Craig Titus-Kelly Ryan Murder Mystery  by former Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Glenn Puit (2007);

• CBS 8 Hours Mystery, “Craig Titus, Kelly Ryan murder case” (2007);

• Court TV: “Bodybuilders Murder Case,” ongoing.


From the Archives
Sex, lies and cardboard acting (10/23/08)
What I learned while covering the O.J. trial (10/16/08)
Titus/Ryan friend tells her version (3/30/06)
What happened to Melissa James? (3/23/06)
Beyond the Weekly
Murder puzzle unfolds (Las Vegas Sun, 2/24/01)
The death of Tupac Shakur one year later (Las Vegas Sun, 9/6/97)
Lawyer: Statements illegal (Las Vegas Sun, 3/31/06)
Girlfriend summoned to court in Binion case (Las Vegas Sun, 1/12/99)
OJ’s Vegas stuff LA-bound; ring missing (Las Vegas Sun, 12/9/08)

Ted Binion, Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish

When the casino heir/mogul was found dead in 1998, his girlfriend and her other boyfriend were convicted in a complicated murder-for-money story. Of all the recent true-crime tales in Vegas, this one seemed to have the most far-fetched plot—involving silver bars buried in the desert—just right for TV movies.

• Movie: Sex and Lies in Sin City: The Ted Binion Scandal, aired in 2008 on Lifetime.

• The movie was based on the book Murder in Sin City, by Las Vegas Sun writer Jeff German (2001).

• Paperback: Death in the Desert: The Ted Binion Homicide Case by Cathy Scott (2000);

• Endless TV coverage, including CourtTV’s “Casino Mogul Murder Case” coverage.

O.J. Simpson

So Vegas wasn’t the setting for his most famous legal drama; O.J. Simpson nevertheless was sent to jail here for a botched robbery. Before the trial was over, one of his accomplices wrote a book, which pretty much sums up the rush to publish true-crime stories. Thomas Riccio’s Busted! The Inside Story of the World of Sports Memorabilia, OJ Simpson and the Vegas Arrests‚ was printed in April 2008, slightly more than six months after the crime, and more than six months before Simpson was sentenced to at least nine years.

Given this taste of Vegas-set true crime products, along with the city’s rich history of mob stories and the fictional fanfare of Anthony Zuiker’s CSI, color us shocked to have come upon this entry in the Las Vegas Meet Up listings online:

“Hi, I’m looking for others who want to start a group to investigate cold cases, missing persons, and to help try and identify unidentified bodies.” –Jessica

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