A British poker champion accused of killing his wife then spending her money during a “playboy” weekend in Las Vegas fears he faces the death penalty in the US, a court heard.
Prosecutors claim Marcus Bebb-Jones, 46, from Worcestershire, murdered his wife Sabrina in 1997 before dumping her body in an American national park.
But a judge’s decision to extradite him from the UK was postponed after defence counsel Ben Cooper said he was seeking assurances Bebb-Jones would not face the death penalty.
Mr Cooper told an extradition hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court: “He faces a minimum sentence of life without parole in Colorado but this is not yet fixed - he is also eligible for the death penalty.”
District Judge Nicholas Evans said: “This court is not going to extradite anyone who will face the death penalty. That’s for sure.”
The professional gambler was arrested last year in a raid at his home in Kidderminster amid accusations he went on to spend thousands of dollars on his wife’s credit cards before botching a suicide bid.
Mr Cooper said he wanted to seek “assurances” Bebb-Jones would not face death over the murder charge.
The judge agreed to postpone his decision until next month, telling Bebb-Jones he would remain in custody until February 22 for a video link appearance.
He added it was hoped the case would be resolved on March 10.
At a previous hearing, prosecutors representing the US Government claimed the poker player had shot himself in the head in a bizarre sequence of events after allegedly killing his wife. Her skull was not found until 2004.
An arrest warrant was issued by US authorities on October 30 this year, Aaron Watkins, representing the US Government, said.
Mr Watkins previously said: “On September 16, 1997 he took his wife to a national park in Colorado where she was murdered.
“Thereafter he spun a number of stories which conflicted one another in order to explain her absence.
“On the weekend following that incident it is said Mr Bebb-Jones went to Las Vegas and spent thousands of dollars, partially using credit cards in his wife’s name.
“He lived a playboy lifestyle during the course of that weekend which culminated in him putting a gun in his mouth and shooting himself in the head.
“Whether by judgment or design, he did not cause any life-threatening injuries.”
Before her murder, the couple ran the Hotel Melrose at Grand Junction, Colorado.
Bebb-Jones was “obstructive” during police investigations into his wife’s disappearance, Mr Watkins told the court.
He added: “Despite extensive efforts to clean the vehicle in which the murder is said to have happened, blood matching his wife’s was found in many places in the vehicle.
“The upshot is that the case against him is very strong.
“This offence is so serious he faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
“There is no reason why Mr Bebb-Jones would surrender to the proceedings.”
Bebb-Jones had won a “large amount” of money as a professional poker player so he has access to that money to aid him in his escape, the court heard.
Bebb-Jones, who has been living in Kidderminster with his mother since returning to the UK, lived in the US for eight years but has been in the UK for around a decade, the court heard.