Politician charged with murder of journalist in Las Vegas was angry at coverage; his DNA was found at the crime scene, police say

The man accused of murdering an investigative reporter in Las Vegas was angry over stories the reporter wrote about him and his DNA was found at the crime scene, authorities said Thursday.

Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles was held without bail on charges of public murder after being arrested Wednesday night in connection with the stabbing of prominent Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German.

The 69-year-old German had written stories about alleged bullying and favoritism in Telles’ office. He was found stabbed to death outside his home in the Bronze Circle on Saturday; He was murdered on Friday, police said.

A police officer retrieves his gun from his lair on Wednesday as he takes a position at the home of Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles in Las Vegas.John Locher / AP

“This is a terrible and shocking murder, one that has deeply affected Las Vegas,” Clark County and Las Vegas sheriff’s Joe Lombardo told reporters on Thursday. “Every murder is tragic, but the murder of a journalist is particularly difficult.”

Detectives immediately targeted Telles, 45, for publicly expressing his anger at German and his reporting, police said.

“Telles was angry about articles written by German as an investigative reporter that revealed possible wrongdoing, and Telles had publicly expressed his problems with that reporting,” Las Vegas police captain Dori Koren said on Thursday.

“And in the end, Telles was also upset — from what we found out later — that there was additional reporting pending.”

German’s family thanked the police and his fellow journalists for working so hard over the past few days to find his killer and get the story out.

“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 are shocked, saddened and angry at his death,” the family said in a statement. “Jeff was determined to seek justice for others and would appreciate the hard work of local police and journalists in pursuing his killer. We look forward to seeing justice in this case.”

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

In addition to Telles’ public anger at German, Koren said another key piece of evidence was video of a red or maroon GMC Denali driving suspiciously through the neighborhood before the German was killed at about 11:18 a.m. Friday.

Investigators eventually found that a GMC Denali matching the one near German was parked at Telles’ home and registered in his wife’s name, police said.

The SUV had driven away from Telles’ home sometime between 9am and noon on the day of the German’s murder, according to the police timeline of the murder, officials said.

“We developed a very critical lead, a vehicle that we identified as a maroon GMC Denali that was suspiciously driving in the vicinity on the morning of the murder,” Koren said. “That vehicle had stopped nearby several times and was behaving suspiciously.

Police this week focused their search on a possible suspect wearing a wide straw hat and bright orange long-sleeved reflective shirt.

While the striking appearance caught the attention of police, the clothing was likely Telle’s “attempt to either disguise his identity or conceal his identity” before attacking the German, Koren said.

The suspect “went to the side of the house,” Koren said. “Shortly after, German came out through the garage door and then went to the side of the house, and eventually an altercation took place between the suspect and the victim.”

Investigators were still developing clear surveillance video of the murder itself Thursday, the sheriff said.

“We have distorted video footage related to the attack,” Lombardo said. “We’re in the process of clarifying that video right now.”

Investigators who issued a search warrant at Telles’ home on Wednesday found partially destroyed shoes and a hat, which resembled a man’s clothing seen in images police released early in the investigation, Koren said.

A DNA sample from Telles’ clothing eventually linked him to the crime scene and led to his arrest, police said.

“As you can see, there is clearly blood on the shoes,” Koren said, showing pictures of the shoes and hat. “And the shoes were cut, probably to try to destroy evidence.”

Police blocked part of Spanish Steps Lane on Wednesday and pulled what appeared to be a red SUV from a house. Telles has a listed address in block 9600 of Spanish Steps Lane.

Telles was taken from his home on a stretcher.

“He had inflicted wounds on himself and we were trying to provide medical attention,” said Koren, who declined to provide details of the injuries, which he called non-life-threatening.

The Telles office oversees the estates of Clark County residents who die without legal next of kin.

It was not immediately clear early Thursday afternoon whether Telles had hired or appointed a lawyer to speak on his behalf.

Telles first appeared in court after the police press conference and Elana Lee Graham, a justice of the peace in Las Vegas, ordered him to be held without bail.

If Telles is ever released on bail in the future, he will no longer be welcome at his office, officials said.

“The safety of our county employees and the public is our top priority, and the County has suspended Mr. Telles’ access to county offices or property,” Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said in a statement Thursday.

“Province employees are currently working from home and the office will remain closed until it is decided when it can reopen.”

Telles could not be reached for comment during the police search on Wednesday afternoon.

Reporters later saw him enter his Spanish Steps Lane home through the garage — dressed in what appeared to be an all-white one-piece protective outfit — while refusing to answer questions about the murder.

German’s coverage of Telles’ office may have played a role in his job loss, as he narrowly eliminated in the Democratic primary for the position this summer.

He won 35,279 votes, or 32.4%, finishing just behind one of his top deputies, Rita Reid, who had 37,401 votes, or 34.3%.