Robert Telles will be held without bail for the murder of a journalist
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 said Thursday.
Las Vegas police also said they found evidence at Telles’ home, including shoes and straw hat pieces, that linked him to the murder.
“This is a terrible and shocking homicide that has had a profound impact on Las Vegas,” Sheriff Joe Lombardo said at a morning press conference. “Every murder is tragic, but the murder of a journalist is particularly disturbing.”
Telles, 45, was arrested in connection with German’s death Wednesday night, about 12 hours after police arrived at his west Las Vegas home to conduct a search.
He was loaded into an ambulance outside his home and police said he suffered from self-inflicted injuries. Authorities described the injuries as superficial cuts on his arms.
Telles made his first court appearance on Thursday afternoon and Justice of the Peace Elana Lee Graham ruled he would be held without bond.
During the hearing, prosecutors linked German’s murder to his reporting on Telles’ conduct as an elected official. Chief Assistant District Attorney Richard Scow said German’s reporting “ruined his political career, probably his marriage.”
“It was him who was going after it, the defendant was going after the cause of the collapse of his life at this point,” Scow said.
Telles’ defense attorney, Travis Shetler, did not respond to requests for comment. He did not make a bail argument for Telles on Thursday.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson said he expects prosecutors to formally charge Telles when he next appears in court on Tuesday.
“The evidence is compelling and I expect that we will file an open murder charge against Mr. Telles,” Wolfson told reporters after the hearing.
Telles was questioned by police on Wednesday and voluntarily handed over his clothes to investigators. said Wolfson. Telles was released and allowed to return home as authorities did not have sufficient evidence to continue to detain him.
Wolfson said Telles was arrested at his home after investigators received DNA test results.
“The final decision to arrest was on the part of the police,” the district attorney said. “But yes, I was informed of the discovery of forensic DNA evidence, and yes, I thought it appropriate to arrest Mr. Telles at that time.”
German, 69, was found dead Saturday morning on the side of his home in northwest Las Vegas. Police said their investigation determined he was killed on Friday morning.
He reported on crime, the courts, corruption, casino industry leaders and mob figures for decades in Las Vegas. This year, he has 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 dedicated his life to his work exposing wrongdoing in Las Vegas and beyond. We are shocked, saddened and angry by his death. Jeff was determined to seek justice for others and would appreciate the hard work of the local police and journalists in pursuing his killer. We look forward to seeing justice in this case. We also want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love, support and appreciation for Jeff and his life’s work.
Lombardo said Telles was incarcerated Wednesday night at the Clark County Detention Center for murder.
During Thursday’s press conference, Captain Dori Koren said search efforts revealed pieces of a straw hat and a pair of shoes matching what a suspect was wearing in surveillance video recovered from German district.
Photos depicting the shoes and hat pieces were shown at the press conference.
“As you can see, there is apparent blood on the shoes, and the shoes were likely cut in an attempt to destroy evidence,” Koren said.
He said the straw hat was cut the same way.
“One of the most important aspects of this investigation was to wait for DNA results, and we received positive DNA results that showed Robert Telles’ DNA at the crime scene,” Koren said.
Later Thursday, police released an arrest report that said Telles’ DNA matched DNA found under German’s fingernails.
Police said in the report that German’s killer was caught on CCTV approaching German’s home at 11:18 a.m. Friday. The assailant appeared to have walked through a pedestrian gate, according to the report. A few minutes later, German’s garage door opened and he exited 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 up.”
German’s body was discovered at 10:33 a.m. the following day. Investigators noted at the scene what appeared to be a stab wound to the neck. An autopsy revealed that he had seven stab wounds to his chest. He also had several injuries to his arms and hands that appeared to be defensive in nature, according to the arrest report.
Police said CCTV shows the suspect calmly driving 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, approached the area where German’s body was again and appeared to be searching for something,” the arrest report said.
The suspect then returned to the SUV and drove off.
On Tuesday, police released a photo of the vehicle and whistleblowers called detectives to say 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 her home Wednesday morning.
Spanish Steps Lane, the quiet street where Telles lived with his wife and children, was noticeably quieter on Thursday than it had been the day before, when police and reporters thronged the street from early morning until late on evening.
At Telles early Thursday afternoon, his wife opened the door when a reporter knocked.
“I don’t talk to anyone,” she said. “Please leave my property.”
According to the neighbors, Telles was a nice neighbor they liked but didn’t really know. They exchanged hellos and their children went to school together, but they did not meet or socialize.
Still, Telles’ neighbors were stunned by his arrest.
“We were surprised, we were shocked,” said Aurora Madrid, who with her husband, Eduardo, has lived opposite Telles for years.
Luis Fuller, 45, also lives across from Telles. He said Telles and his wife have always been friendly, although Telles himself tends to be quiet and to his own.
But if Telles is convicted, Fuller said, “he deserves everything that’s happening to him.”
Editor Glenn Cook called the arrest “a huge relief and outrage for the Review-Journal newsroom.”
“We are relieved that Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for whistleblowing an elected official,” Cook said Wednesday. “Journalists cannot do the important work that our communities need if they fear that reporting the facts will lead to violent reprisals. We thank the Las Vegas police for their urgency and hard work and for immediately recognizing the terrible significance of Jeff’s murder. 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 courageous journalist.
German’s death came months after reports that current and former employees alleged that Telles fueled a hostile work environment and had a relationship that harmed the office’s ability to deal with the public. The complaints led to colleagues secretly filming the two in the back seat of property coordinator Roberta Lee-Kennett’s car in a parking lot. The story also included allegations of bullying and favoritism by Telles.
Telles denied the charges and said Lee-Kennett was simply one of the people he “could lean on” as he tried to change the atmosphere in the office. Telles, a Democrat, lost his re-election bid in the June primary after German’s findings were released.
German had recently filed public records requests for emails and text messages between Telles and three other county officials: Deputy Public Administrator Rita Reid, Lee-Kennett and consultant Michael Murphy. Lee-Kennett has been identified in previous stories as a junior staff member allegedly involved in an “inappropriate relationship” with Telles.
Contact Sabrina Schnur at [email protected] or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Contact Glenn Puit at [email protected] or 702-383-0390. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter. Contact Katelyn Newberg at [email protected] or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Review-Journal editor Brett Clarkson contributed to this report.