The suspect accused of killing a Las Vegas investigative journalist was upset over stories written about him by the reporter, and his DNA was found at the crime scene, authorities said Thursday.
Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles was being held without bail, booked on a charge of open murder, following his arrest Wednesday evening in connection to the stabbing death of prominent Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German.
The noted investigative journalist had written stories about alleged bullying and favoritism in Telles’ office. The reporter was found stabbed to death outside his Bronze Circle home Saturday, though police said he was likely killed Friday.
“This is a terrible and jarring homicide one that has deeply impacted Las Vegas,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters Thursday. “Every murder is tragic but the killing of a journalist is particularly troublesome.”
Detectives immediately zeroed in on Telles, 45, because he publicly expressed his anger at German and his reporting, police said.
“Telles was upset about articles that were being written by German as an investigative journalist that exposed potential wrongdoing, and Telles had publicly expressed his issues with that reporting,” LVMPD Capt. Dori Koren said Thursday.
“And then ultimately Telles was also upset, for what we found out later, that there was additional reporting that was pending.”
German’s family thanked police and his fellow journalists for working so hard in recent days to find his killer and publicize the story.
“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,” according to a family statement.
“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.”
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 with German, Koren said another key piece of evidence was surveillance video showing a red or maroon GMC Denali driving suspiciously through the neighborhood before the reporter was killed at about 11:18 a.m. Friday.
Investigators eventually found that a GMC Denali, matching the one in German’s neighborhood, was parked at Telles’ home and registered to his wife, police said.
That SUV had been driven away from Telles’ home between 9 a.m. to noon on the day of German’s murder, matching the police timeline of the slaying, officials said.
“We developed a very critical lead which was a vehicle that we identified as a maroon colored GMC Denali that was suspiciously driving around in the neighborhood on the morning of the murder,” Koren said.
“That vehicle had stopped multiple times throughout the neighborhood and was behaving suspiciously.“
Police this week concentrated their search on a possible suspect wearing a wide straw hat and a bright orange reflective long-sleeve shirt.
While the conspicuous getup caught the attention of police, the attire was probably Telles’ “attempt to either disguise his identity or conceal his identity” before attacking the 69-year-old victim, Koren said.
“He (the suspect) went to the side of the house,” Koren said. “Shortly after, German came outside of the garage door and then went to the side of the house and ultimately an altercation took place between the suspect and victim.”
Investigators were still working Thursday to develop clear home surveillance video of the murder itself, according to the sheriff.
We have some distorted video associated with the attack,” Lombardo said. “We’re in the process of clarifying that video as we speak.”
Investigators served a search warrant at Telles’ home on Wednesday and found partially destroyed shoes and a hat, resembling the clothes of a suspect seen in images that police had released early in the investigation, Koren said.
A DNA sample from Telles’ clothes eventually linked him to the crime scene and prompted his arrest, police said.
“As you can see there’s apparent blood on the shoes,” Koren said showing pictures of the shoes and hat. “And the shoes were cut, likely in am manner to try to destroy evidence.”
Las Vegas police officers on Wednesday blocked off a portion of Spanish Steps Lane and hauled away what appeared to be a red SUV from a home. Telles has a listed address in the 9600 block of Spanish Steps Lane.
Telles was taken out of his home on a stretcher.
“He had self-inflicted wounds and we were trying to provide medical attention,” said Koren, who declined to detail the injuries but called them non-life-threatening.
Telles’ office oversees the estates of Clark County residents who die without legal next of kin. He’s scheduled to make his first court appearance later Thursday afternoon.
It was not immediately clear early Thursday afternoon if Telles had hired or been appointed a defense attorney yet who could speak on his behalf.
If he is granted bail and he posts bond, Telles won’t be welcomed back to 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.
“County employees of the administrator’s office are currently working from home, and the office will remain closed until a determination is made about when it can reopen.”
Telles could not be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon during the police search.
The county administrator was later spotted by reporters entering his Spanish Steps Lane home — wearing what appeared to be an all-white, one-piece protective outfit — through the garage, as he declined to answer questions about the murder.
German’s reporting about Telles’ office might have played a role in the administrator losing his job, as he was narrowly edged out in the Democratic primary for the position over the summer.
He captured 35,279 votes, or 32.4%, finishing just behind one of his top deputies, Rita Reid, who had 37,401 votes, or 34.3%.