weather icon Windy

‘48 Hours’ episode on the killing of RJ reporter premieres Saturday

Updated February 16, 2024 - 8:00 pm

From one reporter to another, he admired the man.

A decade-and-a-half ago, Peter Van Sant, a correspondent for CBS’ true-crime documentary series “48 Hours,” delved into the infamous death of casino executive Ted Binion for an episode that first aired in January 2010.

As part of his preparations for the story, Van Sant read a 2001 book on the case, “Murder in Sin City: The Death of a Las Vegas Casino Boss,” written by investigative reporter Jeff German, who joined the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2010.

“He was a go-to source for that hour that we did,” Van Sant recalls of German.

It was a mix of shock and outrage that Van Sant felt, then, upon learning of German’s brutal murder outside his home in September 2022.

Van Sant had experienced something like this before: He was working in Phoenix in the late ’70s when The Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles was murdered in what was initially believed to be a mob-related killing.

Van Sant helped cover the case.

Nearly 40 years later, he’d do the same with another fallen colleague, chronicling German’s murder and the efforts of the Review-Journal newsroom to identify his killer and bring him to justice in a new “48 Hours” episode, “The Assassination of Jeff German,” which premieres at 10 p.m. local time on Saturday on CBS.

“We are all a band of brothers and sisters in the reporting business, and when one of ours is taken out like this, people rally. We want the story told, and we want the crime solved,” Van Sant says. “What is so impressive about the RJ is how so many staff members, led by (executive editor) Glenn Cook, decided to do exactly what Jeff German would have done, and that is pull on all those threads, find as much information as possible and, in this case, help solve a crime that destroyed one of the best investigative reporters in America.”

Industry presentation led to production

Work on the episode began after a “48 Hours” producer approached a group of RJ reporters at the Investigative Reporters &Editors conference in Orlando, Florida, in June 2023, where they spoke about German’s slaying and the newspaper’s work pursuing his killer.

Footage for the hourlong segment, which includes interviews with RJ staffers, was shot over a week in Las Vegas in November.

“What intrigued me most was the work of these journalists at the Review-Journal, as they peeled back the layers of the onion,” Van Sant says, “as they chased leads and — in some moments — actually led the investigation.”

Working around the clock in the aftermath of German’s death, Review-Journal reporters and editors helped identify Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles as a suspect in German’s murder, leading to Telles’ arrest less than a week after German’s killing.

German had done extensive reporting on alleged turmoil during Telles’ time at the helm of the public administrator’s office, including claims of bullying, emotional distress and an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker. German also requested more public records about Telles, who was informed they would be released just days before German was killed.

“I think it is important to show what all of Jeff’s friends, colleagues and fellow reporters did to cover his death and expose the history of the former government official charged with his murder,” says RJ Investigations Editor Art Kane, who worked closely with German for years. “The killing of a journalist because of a newspaper investigation, which is what law enforcement alleges happened, is not just an attack on the reporter or news organization. It undercuts the very protections guaranteed by the First Amendment. The more people are exposed to that information, the more they will understand the importance of the role of the media in a democracy.”

As part of his reporting, Van Sant spoke with Telles at the Clark County Detention Center, where Telles continues to maintain his innocence.

“We were face-to-face, got to talk for about 30 minutes, ” Van Sant says. “He denies all of this. He claims that he was framed, claims even that the evidence where his DNA is underneath Jeff German’s fingernails that somehow that was planted. We have a spirited exchange during the course of that interview.”

Telles’ trial is set to start on March 18.

Emotional aftermath

Van Sant also interviewed the whistleblowers in the public administrator’s office who first brought their concerns to German’s attention, leading him to investigate Telles’ tenure there.

“We can’t forget, there were these four women in the public administrator’s office who called Jeff,” Van Sant says. “They were at the end of their rope. They had not gotten the county to help them to deal with their work environment of being harassed and bullied and discriminated against and shouted at. Jeff German, his brave reporting on this, is in that spirit that he had throughout his career of looking out for the little guys.

“We have some very powerful moments,” he continues, “because they each live with a sense of guilt, ‘If we’d never made this call, Jeff would still be alive,’ they tell us. They understand he wouldn’t have wanted that — he knew the risk of his profession. But for them, this has been an agonizing journey as well. And that’s part of this hour: the women who Jeff set out to expose what had been happening to them, reporting that eventually led to his murder.”

And while German’s death still hangs over the RJ newsroom — his desk remains unoccupied, adorned with tributes from his co-workers — so does an air of remembrance.

“As painful as it is to recall the events surrounding Jeff’s murder, everyone at the Review-Journal has a strong desire to make sure he is never forgotten,” Glenn Cook says. “We are grateful that everyone at CBS recognized that Jeff’s story is important. His work was important. His life was important. He was a good man who did an immeasurable amount of good in Southern Nevada.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
New ‘The Office’ spinoff takes place at a Midwestern newspaper

“The Office,” a mockumentary that detailed the endearing mundanity of life at Dunder Mifflin, ran from 2005 to 2013. It’s one of those comfort-food series some fans revisit again and again. In 2024 it seems like a time capsule, the last days of 9-to-5 culture before work-from-home upended it all.