The casino at the Palms Resort is world-famous for its size, excitement and a collection of hundreds of slot machines and gaming tables surrounded by hundreds of thousands of flashing lights that create 24-hour excitement.
But, for two days this week more than 10,000 people snaked through the huge casino and headed for the LAPD's evidence diplay of notorious crimes, "Behind the Scenes, The LAPD Homicide Exhibit". As they say in Sin City, the attraction killed.
California Homicide Investigators Association President Dennis Kilcoyne was amazed at the response. Conceived originally as a private exhibit to help boost the morale of homicide investigators from 115 police agencies, he had decided after speaking with his friend George Maloof, owner of the Palms, that it could be opened to the public for two days, but only for a few hours a day. He figured interest would be limited.
"This is not a freak show or Halloween," he says. "This is a respectful and professional presentation."
For many, however, it is breathtaking. There is a century of murder portrayed in the 8,000 square foot room. The crowds glance at the 1947 "black and white" in which a detective was killed in the early 20th century and quickly head to the exhibit of the murderous Manson Family.
There is a respectful silence as they gaze at the video of a beautiful actress Sharon Tate on a screen mounted above a case holding two of the weapons used in her murder. It is next to the case bearing the rope with which she and others victims were tied.
More controversial is the display of the Robert Kennedy assassination. It originally included the bloody suit that RFK was wearing when he was gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan, but it was removed after the Kennedy family angrily objected.
"We mean no disrespect at all," said Kilcoyne.
All of the evidence on display in Las Vegas is on loan from either the Los Angeles Superior Courts or the District Attorney's office. They have been preserved because of their place in history. Much of it is the history of the rich and famous.
A photo of Marilyn Monroe's body lying in her bed where it was found is along one wall. A few feet away is the Symbionese Liberation Army, best remembered for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. One of their unexploded bombs sits in a case.
There is the evidence chart labeled "Murder of Baretta's Wife" about the case against actor Robert Blake Descriptions of the deaths of music icons Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson have their own cases. There is an enlarged copy of "Just the facts, ma'm" Dragnet actor Jack Webb's 44 cent postage stamp. "Death in Marlon Brando's House" shows evidence in the shooting of 26 year old Dag Drollet, how his 20-year-old girlfriend Cheyenne Brando fled to Tahiti and that 32-year-old Christian Brando entered a guilty plea on charges of voluntary manslaughter.
And then, there is the big attraction – OJ Simpson. The disgraced Hall of Fame football star is currently serving a prison term in a Nevada prison a couple hundred miles away. But, at this exhibit it is 1994 and all the evidence is again fresh.