Nevada official arrested in connection with stabbing death of reporter investigating him
Clark County’s public administrator lost primary after reports of ‘inappropriate relationship’ with a female staffer
Clark County’s public administrator has been arrested in connection with the stabbing death of Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German, who was covering what the newspaper described as “turmoil” in the county government office.
The public administrator, Robert Telles, 45, was taken into custody early Wednesday evening and is being held without bail, the Review-Journal reported. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had arrived at Telles’ home some 12 hours earlier with search warrants related to the Sept. 2 homicide.
Police said Thursday at a news conference that Telles’ DNA was at the crime scene.
German, 69, was found fatally stabbed outside his home in what police described at the time as an altercation. He had been a columnist and reporter for more than 30 years in Las Vegas, covering organized crime, politics, casinos and corruption for the Las Vegas Sun and then the Review-Journal.
His violent death made headlines here and abroad.
German’s reporting on Telles focused on allegations from current and former employees at the public administrator’s office of a hostile work environment spurred by the election official’s “inappropriate relationship” with a female staffer.
A story published in May by the Review-Journal included a videotape reportedly secretly recorded by several employees and purportedly showing a meeting between Telles and the female staffer in the back seat of her car at a mall parking garage. Telles had said the female staffer was someone he “could lean on.”
A month later, Telles lost his bid for reelection when he was defeated by his top deputy, Assistant Public Administrator Rita Reid, in Nevada’s Democratic primary. German reported that even as Telles conceded, he remained combative, posting an “angry” letter and lashing out at German on Twitter.
At the time of his death, German was continuing to investigate the office responsible for securing dead people’s property while their family or executor is located. German had recently filed public records requests for emails and text messages between Telles and three other county officials, according to the Review-Journal.
Police sought the public’s help in identifying a suspect wearing a bright orange, long-sleeved shirt, gloves and an oversized straw hat and later, a vehicle described as a red or maroon GMC Yukon Denali. A straw hat that was cut up in a manner seen as an attempt to destroy evidence was recovered, police said Thursday.
The Review-Journal said the vehicle was the “breakthrough” in the case, noting Telles was seen in his driveway next to a vehicle matching its description. That vehicle, along with another, was towed during the search of Telles’ home, located about six miles from where German was killed.
The Review-Journal said Telles arrived home about 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, wearing what appeared to be a white hazmat suit and ignoring questions from reporters as he entered his garage and closed the door. Police arrived later in tactical gear and surrounded the home.
Telles was photographed on a stretcher as he was loaded into an ambulance, shortly before Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo confirmed to the Review-Journal at around 6:30 p.m. that Telles had been arrested. Police said Thursday Telles had self-inflicted wounds that were not life-threatening.
Telles was voluntarily interviewed without an attorney Wednesday but was not able to return to his home while evidence continued to be gathered, police said Thursday, calling waiting for DNA results one of the most important aspects of the case.
An arrest report released later stated that Telles’ DNA was consistent with DNA found under German’s fingernails, the Review-Journal reported, and also said his killer was captured on video surveillance approaching German’s home then leaving the crime scene but returning minutes later in a Denali, apparently searching for something.
The report said German’s garage door opened and he walked out after the killer apparently breached a pedestrian gate on his way to the house, according to the Review-Journal. “(German) approached the pedestrian gate and was immediately attacked,” the newspaper said police wrote. “(He) fell to the ground and never got back up.”
Police declined at the news conference to speculate on Telles’ motive although Capt. Dori Koren told reporters “we know that Telles was very upset about German’s reporting already, about his role as public administrator and everything else that followed with that.”
Lombardo said this was “a terrible and jarring homicide — one that has deeply impacted Las Vegas,” adding that, “Every murder is tragic, but the killing of a journalist is particularly troublesome.”
Journalists also reacted to the arrest, including Society of Professional Journalists National President Rebecca Aguilar.
“The murder of Jeff German is a reminder that everyday journalists around the world put their lives on the line to uncover the truth. We are saddened by the murder of the veteran investigative reporter at the Las Vegas Review-Journal and thankful that Las Vegas law enforcement has arrested a suspect in this case,” Aguilar said.
“As the Review-Journal reported, many described Jeff as a fearless reporter, the embodiment of the First Amendment, who stood up for society’s underdogs and had a strong sense of right and wrong. We should honor Jeff by continuing to be like him, a person of courage, compassion and commitment to the truth.
Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said Telles’ arrest “is at once an enormous relief and an outrage for the Review-Journal newsroom. “We are relieved Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for reporting on an elected official.”
Cook said, “Journalists can’t do the important work our communities require if they are afraid a presentation of facts could lead to violent retribution,” and thanked Las Vegas police “for their urgency and hard work and for immediately recognizing the terrible significance of Jeff’s killing. Now, hopefully, the Review-Journal, the German family and Jeff’s many friends can begin the process of mourning and honoring a great man and a brave reporter.”