LAS VEGAS — The DNA of a now-arrested public official was found at the site of a Las Vegas investigative reporter's fatal stabbing and the man was “very upset” about upcoming stories the reporter was pursuing, police said Thursday.
County Public Administrator Robert Telles, a Democrat, was arrested late Wednesday after a brief police standoff at his home and hospitalized for what Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo described as self-inflicted wounds hours after investigators served a search warrant and confiscated vehicles in the criminal probe of the killing of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German.
Telles, 45, had been a focus of German’s reporting about turmoil, including complaints of administrative bullying, favoritism and Telles’ relationship with a subordinate staffer in the county office that handles property of people who die without a will or family contacts. Telles went on to lose his bid for reelection in the June primary.
“This has been an unusual case from the beginning,” Lombardo told reporters at a news conference, "the murder of an investigative journalist and the main suspect an elected official here in Clark County.”
Lombardo is the elected head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and is running as a Republican for governor. He said Telles was quickly identified as a suspect with the help of media, including the Review-Journal.
“Every murder is tragic. But the killing of a journalist is particularly troublesome,” Lombardo said.
Las Vegas Police Capt. Dori Koren said Telles was identified early in the investigation as a person “upset about articles that were being written by German, as an investigative journalist, that exposed potential wrongdoing."
“Telles had publicly expressed his issues with that reporting,” Koren said. “We found out later there was additional reporting that was pending.”
Koren said DNA at the crime scene outside German's house matched Telles, and investigators serving a search warrant at Telles' home found shoes and a distinctive wide straw hat.
Koren said they matched those worn by a person captured on security camera video wearing a blaze orange shirt and walking toward German's home. He showed photos of the shoes and the hat and said they had been been cut up.
A murder weapon has not been found, but Lombardo said police have “distorted” video that shows the attack. He said investigators were attempting to enhance it.
Investigators said a distinctive maroon GMC Yukon Denali SUV was seen driving around the neighborhood Sept. 2, the morning of the killing, stopping several times. That vehicle, registered to Telles’ wife, departed Telles' home around 9 a.m. and returned around noon.
Koren said police believe German was attacked about 11:15 a.m. and his garage door was open.
Telles was questioned by police Wednesday and did not respond to telephone messages at his county office. It was not immediately clear following his arrest if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. He was expected to appear in court later Thursday.
German joined the Review-Journal in 2010 after more than two decades at the Las Vegas Sun, where he was a columnist and reporter who covered courts, politics, labor, government and organized crime. He was 69.
In a statement, German's family called him “a loving and loyal brother, uncle and friend who devoted his life to his work exposing wrongdoing in Las Vegas and beyond."
“We’re shocked, saddened and angry about his death,” the statement said. "Jeff was committed to seeking justice for others and would appreciate the hard work by local police and journalists in pursuing his killer. We look forward to seeing justice done in this case.”
Glenn Cook, exective editor of the Review-Journal, said in a statement that “the arrest of Robert Telles is at once an enormous relief and an outrage for the Review-Journal newsroom.”
“We are relieved Robert Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for reporting on an elected official,” the statement said. “Journalists can’t do the important work our communities require if they are afraid a presentation of facts could lead to violent retribution. We thank Las Vegas police for their urgency and hard work and for immediately recognizing the terrible significance of Jeff’s killing.”
“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,” it said.
Telles, a lawyer who practiced probate and estate law, won his elected position in 2018, replacing a three-term public administrator. He lost his June party primary to Assistant Public Administrator Rita Reid, who faces a Republican challenger in November. Telles’ term expires Dec. 31.
In the weeks before the election, German bylined reports about an office “mired in turmoil and internal dissension” between longtime employees and new hires under Telles’ leadership.
Telles blamed “old-timers” for exaggerating the extent of his relationship with a female staffer and falsely claiming that he mistreated them.
“All my new employees are super-happy and everyone’s productive and doing well,” he told the newspaper. “We’ve almost doubled the productivity in the office.”
Telles later posted Twitter complaints about German, the Review-Journal reported, including claims in June that German was a bully who was “obsessed” with him.
German, a reporter with a reputation for tenacity, was working on follow-up reports, the newspaper said Wednesday, and recently filed public records requests for emails and text messages between Telles and three other county officials including Reid and consultant Michael Murphy.
Murphy, the former Clark County coroner hired to address complaints about leadership in the public administrators’ office, did not immediately respond to a telephone message.