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Police arrest county official in reporter’s stabbing death

Updated September 8, 2022 - 1:02 pm

Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles was arrested on suspicion of murder Wednesday evening in the fatal stabbing of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German, whose investigation of the politician contributed to his primary election loss in June.

The stunning development came a day after Las Vegas police asked for the public’s help in identifying a suspect in the case. An early morning search of Telles’ home on Wednesday provided the first indication that the Friday killing might be related to German’s work exposing public wrongdoing. The investigative reporter was pursuing a potential follow-up story about Telles in the weeks before he was killed.

Police arrived at Telles’ home on Spanish Steps Lane in the western valley around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday and blocked off nearby streets. Shortly before 9 a.m., police released a statement saying they were “currently serving search warrants” in connection with the homicide investigation.

They provided no further information until Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo told the Review-Journal at around 6:30 p.m. that Telles had been arrested. Shortly before that, a Review-Journal photographer captured an image of Telles on a stretcher as he was loaded into an ambulance.

Police announced Thursday that Telles’ DNA was found at the scene of the fatal stabbing.

“The arrest of Robert Telles is at once an enormous relief and an outrage for the Review-Journal newsroom,” Executive Editor Glenn Cook said. “We are relieved Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for reporting on an elected official. 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.”

The breakthrough in the case came after police released an image of a vehicle tied to the homicide suspect: a red or maroon GMC Yukon Denali.

Police released the image during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Later that evening, Review-Journal reporters observed Telles in the driveway of his home, standing next to a vehicle matching that description.

Home searched, vehicles towed

Detectives interviewed Telles while the search of his home was being conducted the following morning, according to authorities. The residence is less than 6 miles from the home where German was found dead on Saturday.

The GMC vehicle and a second vehicle were towed from Telles’ property at about 12:50 p.m. on Wednesday.

Attempts to reach Telles for comment on Wednesday were not successful. When he arrived home at about 2:20 p.m., he was wearing what appeared to be a white hazmat suit. He did not respond to reporters’ questions as he entered his garage and closed the door.

Later, police arrived in tactical gear and surrounded the home while Telles remained inside. The area was again cordoned off with yellow tape.

Police used the area in front of Piggott Elementary School on Red Hills Road at Silk Tassel Drive as a command post as police mobile units, fire engines and medical personnel arrived at the scene.

At around 5:45 p.m. an officer walked a young boy and girl, both wearing backpacks, across the street and beyond the crime scene tape to a waiting parent. Other people walked past the tape and asked the stationed officer if they could walk to the school to pick up their children.

Red Hills remained closed before Silk Tassel as of 7:50 p.m.

After Telles was arrested, police announced that Lombardo and Capt. Dori Koren would provide an update on the investigation Thursday morning. Las Vegas Justice Court records show that Telles has an initial appearance scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson declined to comment on the homicide investigation earlier Wednesday.

Reporter had requested more records

German spent months reporting on the turmoil surrounding Telles’ oversight of the public administrator’s office.

The 45-year-old Democrat lost his re-election bid in the primary after German’s findings were published. German also had recently filed public records requests for emails and text messages between Telles and three other county officials: Assistant Public Administrator Rita Reid, estate coordinator Roberta 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.

German, 69, was found dead on Saturday morning outside his northwest Las Vegas home, the Metropolitan Police Department reported. Police said they believe he was fatally stabbed during an altercation the previous morning.

Private services were held for German on Wednesday.

Two pieces of surveillance footage in the investigation were made public.

RELATED: Embattled county official losing re-election bid, posts angry letter

The first shows a suspect wearing a wide straw hat, gloves and a bright orange long-sleeved shirt. The other captures a vehicle police say was tied to the suspect: a 2007 to 2014 red or maroon GMC Yukon Denali with chrome handles and a sunroof.

“It appears the suspect was potentially casing the area to commit other crimes before the homicide occurred,” police said in a statement on Tuesday.

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 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, who also worked under former Public Administrator John Cahill, was simply one of the people he “could lean on” while he tried to change the office atmosphere.

He placed third in his party’s primary for re-election to the county office, which oversees the estates of those who have died.

That same month he lashed out at German in a series of public Twitter posts, accusing the reporter of preparing “lying smear piece #4.”

Top Clark County managers hired former coroner Murphy in late May to tackle friction in the public administrator’s office. Murphy was at the office on Shadow Lane around 9:15 a.m. Wednesday but declined to comment.

By 10:30 a.m., a sign had been posted at the entrance that read, “This building is temporarily closed.” Telles’ parking spot sat empty.

Outbursts follow investigation

The Review-Journal’s first investigative story on Telles was published in mid-May.

The story described a 19-page confidential retaliation complaint filed with the Clark County Office of Diversity by estate coordinator Aleisha Goodwin, where she provided details of Telles’ relationship with Lee-Kennett, the videotaping and his alleged micromanagement of the full-time workers.

“The county has failed to protect employees from a mentally and emotionally abusive situation that has continued now for two years-plus, and the mental and physical health ramifications have been felt by most of the full-time employees in this department of only eight full-time employees,” Goodwin wrote.

On May 26, German reported that top Clark County managers had hired Murphy to tackle friction in Telles’ office after multiple claims of bullying and favoritism.

German’s story from June 18 revealed that Telles had posted a scathing letter on his election website. The letter attacked the Review-Journal and its reporting and claimed the allegations against him were false. It also leveled what some employees said was a threat to retaliate against them for stepping forward.

They told German they still feared for their jobs and had reported their concerns about the letter to county human resources.

Because of the brewing animosity, the top supervisor under Telles, Rita Reid, decided to run against him in this year’s Democratic primary.

Cahill, who preceded Telles in office from 2007 to 2019, told German the letter was another effort to intimidate the workers.

Telles aired his grievances with German through Twitter on multiple occasions, claiming on June 16 that the reporter was “obsessed” with him. Later in the month, he called him a bully.

“I think he’s mad that I haven’t crawled into a hole and died,” read another tweet.

Following his primary defeat, Telles posted that he would return to practicing probate law. German’s final story on Telles, published June 22, announced that he had conceded in the primary race.

Cook said German never communicated any concerns about his personal safety or any threats made against him to anyone in the Review-Journal’s leadership.

Acclaimed journalist remembered

German’s journalism career spanned 40 years in Las Vegas.

His reporting exposed corruption and crime perpetrated by politicians, police, attorneys, judges, casino industry leaders and mob figures.

He built a trusted reputation with sources, refusing to disclose those who asked not to be revealed. He joined the Review-Journal in 2010 after more than two decades at the Las Vegas Sun.

German’s investigative work led to reforms and policy changes.

Former Clark County District Attorney David Roger remembered him earlier this week as a tenacious reporter who “just would not give up.”

In recent years, his reporting exposed failures in city inspections before the deadly Alpine Motel Apartments fire in 2019 and extremist activity in Southern Nevada.

He broke the news that City Councilwoman Michele Fiore’s campaign finances were under scrutiny by the FBI and reported that city officials had deleted surveillance videos of an altercation with fellow Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, despite the Review-Journal requesting copies under Nevada’s public records law.

German was the writer and host for Season 2 of “Mobbed Up: the Fight for Vegas,” the Review-Journal’s acclaimed true-crime podcast. His book, “Murder in Sin City: The Death of a Las Vegas Casino Boss,” chronicles the 1998 death of casino executive Ted Binion.

Portions of this story were taken from previous reporting by German.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter. Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter. Contact Glenn Puit at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter. Staff writers Sabrina Schnur, Glen Meek, Brett Clarkson, Katelyn Newberg and David Wilson contributed to this story.

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