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County official will be held without bail in reporter’s killing, judge rules

Updated September 8, 2022 - 8:36 pm

The DNA of Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles was found at the crime scene after Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German was fatally stabbed, police announced on Thursday.

Las Vegas police also said they found evidence at Telles’ home, including shoes and pieces of a straw hat, that tied him to the killing.

“This is a terrible and jarring homicide — one that has deeply impacted Las Vegas,” Sheriff Joe Lombardo said at a morning news conference. “Every murder is tragic, but the killing of a journalist is particularly troublesome.”

Telles, 45, was arrested in connection with German’s death on Wednesday evening, about 12 hours after police arrived at his west Las Vegas house to conduct a search.

He was loaded into an ambulance outside his home, and police said he was suffering from self-inflicted wounds. Authorities described the wounds as superficial cuts on his arms.

Telles made his initial court appearance Thursday afternoon, and Justice of the Peace Elana Lee Graham ruled that he would be held without bail.

During the hearing, prosecutors linked German’s killing to his reporting on Telles’ conduct as an elected official. Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Scow said German’s reporting “ruined his political career, likely his marriage.”

“This was him lashing out, the defendant lashing out, at the cause of the unraveling of his life at this point,” Scow said.

Telles’ defense attorney, Travis Shetler, did not reply to requests for comment. He did not make an argument regarding Telles’ bail on Thursday.

‘Compelling’ evidence

District Attorney Steve Wolfson said he expects prosecutors to formally charge Telles at his next court appearance on Tuesday.

“The evidence is compelling, and I expect us to file a charge of open murder against Mr. Telles,” Wolfson told reporters after the court hearing.

Telles was questioned by police on Wednesday and voluntarily turned over his clothing to investigators. Wolfson said. Telles was released and allowed to go home because authorities did not have sufficient evidence to continue detaining him.

Wolfson said Telles was arrested at his home after investigators received the results of DNA testing.

“The ultimate decision to arrest was on the part of the police,” the district attorney said. “But yes, I was notified of the forensic evidence finding of the DNA, and yes, I thought it was appropriate to arrest Mr. Telles at that point.”

German, 69, was found dead Saturday morning on the side of his northwest Las Vegas house. Police said their investigation determined that he was killed Friday morning.

He reported on crime, courts, corruption, casino industry leaders and mob figures for decades in Las Vegas. This year, he spent months reporting on the turmoil surrounding Telles’ oversight of the public administrator’s office.

Private services were held for German on Wednesday, and his family released the following statement on Thursday:

“Jeff was 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. 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. We also want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love, support and recognition for Jeff and his life’s work.”

Lombardo said Telles was booked Wednesday night into the Clark County Detention Center on a murder charge.

At Thursday’s news conference, Capt. Dori Koren said search efforts turned up pieces of a straw hat and a pair of shoes that matched what a suspect was seen wearing in surveillance video recovered from German’s neighborhood.

Photos depicting the shoes and pieces of the hat were shown during the news conference.

“As you can see there is apparent blood on the shoes, and the shoes were cut likely in a manner to try to destroy evidence,” Koren said.

He said the straw hat was cut in a similar manner.

“One of the most important aspects of this investigation was waiting on the DNA results, and we received positive DNA results that showed Robert Telles’ DNA at the crime scene,” Koren said.

‘Immediately attacked’

Later Thursday, police released an arrest report stating that Telles’ DNA was consistent with DNA found under German’s fingernails.

Police said in the report that German’s killer was captured on video surveillance approaching German’s home at 11:18 a.m. Friday. The assailant appeared to breach a pedestrian gate, according to the report. Minutes later, German’s garage door opened, and he walked out to the west side of his property.

“German approached the pedestrian gate and was immediately attacked,” police wrote. “German fell to the ground and never got back up.”

German’s body was discovered at 10:33 a.m. the next day. Investigators noticed at the scene what appeared to be a sharp-force injury to his neck. An autopsy revealed that he had seven sharp-force injuries to his torso. He also had several injuries to his arms and hands that appeared to be defensive in nature, according to the arrest report.

Police said video surveillance shows the suspect calmly walking away from the crime scene, then returning six minutes later in a maroon GMC Yukon Denali that matches the description of a vehicle registered to Telles’ wife.

“The suspect, wearing the same clothing, exited the Maroon GMC Denali, re-approached the area where German’s body was located and appeared to look for something,” the arrest report states.

The suspect then returned to the SUV and drove off.

On Tuesday, police released a photo of the vehicle, and tipsters called detectives to tell them it looked like Telles’ vehicle. On Tuesday evening, Review-Journal reporters observed Telles in the driveway of his home, standing next to a vehicle that matched the description of the one in the photo.

Police said they found the Denali registered to Telles’ wife in the driveway when they searched his home Wednesday morning.

Spanish Steps Lane, the quiet street where Telles lived with his wife and children, was markedly calmer on Thursday than it was a day before, when police and reporters swarmed the street from the early morning to late at night.

At Telles’ house early Thursday afternoon, his wife answered the door when a reporter knocked.

“I’m not talking to anybody,” she said. “Please get off my property.”

According to neighbors, Telles was a pleasant neighbor whom they liked but didn’t really know. They would exchange hellos with each other, and their kids went to school together, but they didn’t get together or hang out.

Still, Telles’ neighbors were stunned by his arrest.

“We were surprised, we were shocked,” said Aurora Madrid, who along with her husband, Eduardo, has lived across the street from Telles for years.

Luis Fuller, 45, also lives across the street from Telles. He said Telles and his wife have always been friendly, even if Telles himself tends to be quiet and keeps to himself.

But if Telles is convicted, Fuller said, “he deserves everything that’s coming to him.”

Executive Editor Glenn Cook called the arrest “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 on Wednesday. “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. 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.”

German’s death came months after he reported that current and former employees alleged that Telles fueled a hostile work environment and carried on a relationship that impaired the office’s ability to deal with the public. The complaints led to co-workers secretly videotaping the two in the back seat of estate coordinator Roberta Lee-Kennett’s car in a parking garage. The story also included claims of bullying and favoritism by Telles.

Telles denied the accusations and said Lee-Kennett was simply one of the people he “could lean on” while he tried to change the office atmosphere. Telles, a Democrat, lost his re-election bid in the June primary after German’s findings were published.

German had recently filed public records requests for emails and text messages between Telles and three other county officials: Assistant Public Administrator Rita Reid, Lee-Kennett and consultant Michael Murphy. Lee-Kennett was identified in previous stories as a subordinate staffer allegedly involved in an “inappropriate relationship” with Telles.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Contact Glenn Puit at gpuit@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0390. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter. Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Brett Clarkson contributed to this report.

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