An elected official has been arrested after a Las Vegas journalist whom he had been critical of for his investigative reporting was found stabbed to death.
Jeff German, a veteran reporter at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was found fatally stabbed outside his home Saturday morning. On Wednesday, Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles — who lost an election after German published his investigation into him — was arrested on suspicion of murder, jail records show.
In a news conference Thursday, law enforcement officials confirmed Telles had been arrested in connection to the murder of German. DNA found at the scene of the crime was a positive match for Telles, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Dori Koren said, and bloodstained shoes and a hat they believe he wore during the stabbing were found cut up in an apparent effort to destroy evidence.
"This has been an unusual case from the beginning — the murder of an investigative journalist, and the main suspect, an elected official here in Clark County," Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said. "This is a terrible and jarring homicide, one that has deeply impacted Las Vegas. Every murder is tragic, but the killing of a journalist is particularly troublesome."
It was German's own Review-Journal colleagues whose sleuthing linked his death to the politician.
Telles was taken into custody at his home, where he was seen being brought out on a stretcher and taken away by an ambulance, video captured by the Review-Journal shows. He was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening, self-inflicted wounds, Koren said Thursday, and is now in jail.
Telles was elected to his position in 2018 but lost reelection in the Democratic primary in June. Weeks prior, German had published an investigation into the "hostile work environment" in Telles's office, which included allegations of bullying, retaliation, favoritism, and an “inappropriate relationship” between the official and a staffer.
In a lengthy letter on his campaign website after the article was published, Telles denied the allegations and lambasted the Review-Journal, calling out German by name for what he described as "trying to drag me through the mud." Telles also tweeted about German several times, claiming the journalist was "obsessed" with him and describing his work as a "lying smear piece."
In the days after German's death, police requested the public's assistance in identifying a suspect. Surveillance images released Tuesday showed an individual wearing a bright orange shirt and a wide-brimmed straw hat, as well as their vehicle, a red GMC Yukon SUV.
"Later that evening, Review-Journal reporters observed Telles in the driveway of his home, standing next to a vehicle matching that description," staff at the paper wrote.
In the weeks before his death, the newspaper said German had been working on a follow-up story about Telles. He had not reported any safety concerns or threats against him, the paper's executive editor, Glenn Cook, added.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Cook said Telles's arrest is simultaneously "an enormous relief and an outrage for the Review-Journal newsroom."
"We are relieved Robert Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for reporting on an elected official," Cook said. "Journalists can’t do the important work our communities require if they are afraid a presentation of facts could lead to violent retribution."
Telles's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and it is not clear whether he has retained a lawyer.
Cook thanked 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," Cook said. "Godspeed, Jeff.”
German, 69, was a venerated journalist in Las Vegas who covered the city for some four decades, according to the paper. He joined the Review-Journal in 2010 after more than 20 years at the Las Vegas Sun, where he reported on politics, courts, labor, and organized crime.
In an obituary the paper published Sunday, Cook said staff at the paper were "devastated" by German's death.
“He was the gold standard of the news business," Cook said. "It’s hard to imagine what Las Vegas would be like today without his many years of shining a bright light on dark places.”
Rebecca Aguilar, national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, called German's killing a "reminder that everyday journalists around the world put their lives on the line to uncover the truth."
“As the Review-Journal reported, many described Jeff as a fearless reporter, the embodiment of the First Amendment, who stood up for society's underdogs and had a strong sense of right and wrong," Aguilar said. "We should honor Jeff by continuing to be like him, a person of courage, compassion, and commitment to the truth."
In a statement to the paper, German's family remembered him as a "loving and loyal brother, uncle and friend who devoted his life to his work exposing wrongdoing in Las Vegas and beyond."
"Jeff was committed to seeking justice for others and would appreciate the hard work by local police and journalists in pursuing his killer," they said. "We look forward to seeing justice done in this case. We also want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love, support and recognition for Jeff and his life’s work."