Victims of the State

10 Cases

Churchill County, NV 

Harold Guyette

Mar 12, 1966

Harold Chester Guyette was convicted of one count of murder after allegedly committing a double homicide. On Mar. 12, 1966, Savin' Sam's, a mom-and-pop truck stop between the towns of Fernley and Lovelock, was robbed. The operators, Dean Briggs and his mother, Eva Briggs, were both fatally shot. After being arrested for an outstanding traffic citation in his home state of Indiana, Guyette, 20, was questioned about the double homicide in Nevada. He admitted being in the area with his 17-year-old wife on a drive back from California. His wife's stepfather had called Nevada authorities and told them the two had been in the area. However, neither had been to the location of the murders.

On the basis of these statements, Guyette and his wife, Mary Lou, were extradited to Nevada. The authorities made Mary Lou write letters to her husband, telling him to confess so she could get out of jail. Guyette was denied legal counsel. Eventually, Guyette did confess so Mary Lou could find witnesses and help. Mary Lou did find witnesses and help, but Guyette was convicted of murdering Dean Briggs. Witnesses placed Guyette and his wife 197 miles away at the time of the murders. Guyette was released in 1972, officially on the technicality of being denied legal counsel. As of 2008, Guyette is still fighting for official exoneration.  (Archives) (Appeals)  [4/08]

Churchill County, NV 

Broam & Manning

Convicted 1990 (Fallon)

Jack Ray Broam, 38, and his co-worker, Jay Cee Manning, 37, were convicted of sodomizing Broam's 9-year-old son, Neal. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Neal testified that the two sexually assaulted him as many as 50 times in one night. In 1998, the then 17-year-old Neal told a judge that his mother, Broam's ex-wife, locked him up and starved him until he was willing to falsely testify against the two.  (Broam v. Bogan)  [10/05]

Clark County, NV 

Emma Jo Johnson

May 23, 1951 (Las Vegas)

Emma Jo Johnson was convicted of the murder of her 72-year-old landlady, Jane Jones. Jones died in early June 1951 after apparently falling ill following a May 23 fracas with Johnson over mail. Johnson was released in Jan. 1954 after mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner (creator of Perry Mason) determined that Jones was not murdered as the result of an asserted assault by Johnson, but instead died from a brain tumor.  (Archives)  [4/08]

Clark County, NV 

Roberto Miranda

Aug 8, 1981 (Las Vegas)

Roberto Hernandez Miranda was convicted of murdering Manuel Rodriguez Torres and sentenced to death. A witness, Fernando Cabrera, claimed he drove with Miranda to Torres' house and waited outside. Cabrera had motive to frame Miranda because Miranda was having an affair with his girlfriend. An incompetent lawyer, Thomas Rigsby, represented Miranda, and interviewed just three of the forty witnesses relevant to the defense. Rigsby did not manage to serve a subpoena on a single witness. Rigsby never brought out the fact that the accuser had motive to frame Miranda or to have witnesses testify who would verify his innocence. In overturning the conviction, Miranda's appeals judge wrote, “The lack of pretrial preparation by trial counsel...cannot be justified.” The prosecution subsequently dropped all charges and Miranda was later awarded $5 million in compensation for 13 years on Nevada's death row. (PC) (85) (02) (03) [7/05]

Clark County, NV 

Tabish & Murphy

Sept 17, 1998 (Las Vegas)

Rick Tabish, a trucking contractor, and Sandy Murphy, a one-time topless dancer, were convicted in 2000 of murdering Murphy's boyfriend, Ted Binion. Binion, 55, was formerly an executive of the Horseshoe Casino and had an estate worth $50 million. Tabish and Murphy allegedly killed Binion by forcing him to swallow a mixture of black tar heroin and the sedative Xanax. Murphy stood to inherit about $1.5 million from Binion's estate. Tom Dillard, an investigator hired by the Binion family, gathered evidence against the pair and got police to file charges. Defense argued at trial that Binion was a well-known heroin addict and had simply overdosed.

Binion reportedly became depressed in March 1998 after the Nevada Casino Gaming Control board permanently barred him from his family's casino because of his reported drug use and his association with a known mobster. The day before Binion's death, he was prescribed a month's supply of Xanax, which is useful for combating the withdraw symptoms of heroin. However, it seemed unlikely that he planned to use the Xanax for that purpose, for later that day, he bought 12 balloons of black tar heroin from a drug dealer. Tabish and Murphy's convictions were overturned in 2003 and the two were acquitted on retrial in 2004.  (L.A. Times) (American Justice)  [12/06]

Clark County, NV 

Lawrence Schwiger

2000 - 2001

Lawrence E. Schwiger was sentenced to life imprisonment for lewdness and solicitation. Schwiger maintains the crimes never occurred and that the charges resulted from his wife seeking revenge and custody of their daughter while working in concert with corrupt detectives.  (IIPPI)

Clark County, NV 

David Ruffa

Feb 7, 2002 (Henderson)

David Ruffa was convicted of murdering his estranged wife, Shao Lei. Pre-trial DNA tests exonerated him and implicated an unknown person. Police and prosecutors refused to pursue this result and request DNA samples from other possible suspects. Instead they prosecuted Ruffa on the theory that he may have accompanied or hired the hands-on killer. Even without the DNA exoneration, the circumstantial case against Ruffa was weak and largely refuted by defense evidence.  However, Ruffa was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  (TruthInJustice) (Defense Blog)  [3/07]

Nye County, NV 

Shasta Roever

Jan 17, 1993 (Pahrump)

“Shasta” Lerlene Evonne Roever was charged with murdering her live in fiancé, Ian Wilhite, in part because Wilhite was shot with a .22 caliber bullet and she owned a .22 caliber gun, although ballistics soon ruled out her gun. Wilhite had moved to Pahrump from Las Vegas because his life had been threatened there. At trial the key witness and main investigator lied on direct examination and impeached their testimony on cross-examination. Throughout the trial, this investigator fraternized with the jurors in the jurors lounge, not just on the day he testified. His excuse was that it was the only smoking area in the court building. Roever was convicted but the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the conviction and noted, “There was no physical evidence to link the defendant to the crime.”

At the second trial Roever insisted on testifying, but her public defender avoided or refused to ask important questions regarding her husband's background and associates. The subject was not even broached. Roever's public defender refused to subpoena anyone on the two-page list of witnesses that she gave him and even insulted her uncle, the only witness that was there for her. This time the DA admitted there was no evidence, so he felt justified in trying her based on whatever stories or opinions his witnesses could fabricate about her.

As an example, one witness testified that Roever had stated she had killed her own mother and a baby. Roever had shared with this witness the story of the drowning death of her mother and the story of the death of her child who was asphyxiated during delivery by his own umbilical cord. Roever had an ex-husband whom she had thrown out years before for lying and stealing; his relatives were there to testify. The ex-husband's mother who once told Roever she was in love with her fiancé (the murder victim) and wished he would be interested in older women, told some tales that Roever hadn't a clue about. Even though the jurors stated their concern about the lack of evidence, Roever was convicted again. Later the Chief Deputy DA argued in his response to the Nevada Supreme Court that ultimately, the truth behind the stories is immaterial. In fact, he said, prosecutors assumed the stories weren't true.

Roever has repeatedly been offered plea bargains which would have allowed her to get out years ago, so maintaining her conviction is a matter of pride for prosecutors rather than a feeling that she must be locked up as a danger to society.  (Justice: Denied)  [6/05]

Washoe County, NV 

Kriseya Labastida

Jan 9, 1993

Kriseya Labastida was convicted of murder because her husband had physically abused her infant son, Thunder, an abuse that resulted in his death. She was convicted because she “should have known” that her husband was likely to abuse and kill her son. The conviction was overturned in 2000.  (IPT)

Washoe County, NV 

Juan Castillo

Aug 13, 1995

Juan Mauricio Castillo was convicted of the murders of two rival gang members in Reno, Nevada.  (IIPPI)