On Saturday, Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German was found stabbed to death outside his home in a shocking and — for the United States, at least — remarkably rare murder of a journalist. German, 69, was a muckraking reporter who often covered Las Vegas’s considerable underbelly, and suspicions inevitably arose that someone he had written about unfavorably might be behind the killing.
Those suspicions seem to have been correct. On Wednesday, Clark County public administrator Robert Telles was arrested on suspicion of committing the murder. At a press conference on Thursday, authorities said that Telles’s DNA matched specimens found at the scene of the crime. A GMC Denali registered to Telles’s wife and parked at his home was picked up on surveillance video near German’s home before and after his killing. A straw hat allegedly used by Telles to disguise himself was found during a search of his home and car. Telles is expected in court on Thursday evening, where he may enter a plea.
Hours before his arrest, a CBS Las Vegas reporter confronted Telles as he was entering his home in a white paper suit, asking him bluntly: “Did you commit this murder?” He did not respond.
Though authorities did not give a potential motive, in recent months, German reported multiple stories citing people who portrayed 45-year-old Telles in a highly unfavorable light. In the central article, he wrote that Telles’s office, which handles estates of deceased residents, had been “mired in turmoil and internal dissension over the past two years.” Telles was said to have engaged in bullying and emotional abuse of employees, and an allegedly “inappropriate relationship” Telles carried on with a colleague alarmed co-workers so much that one of them recorded an encounter between the two in a parking garage.
The revelations in German’s articles contributed heavily to Telles’s dismal third-place showing in a Democratic primary this year, finishing behind a little-known assistant public administrator who did not even bother raising any money. Upon conceding the race, Telles posted a letter disputing the Review-Journal’s reporting and accusing those who had spoken out against him of trying to “destroy me personally and professionally.”
Telles wasn’t exactly subtle about his dislike of German in particular. On Twitter, he called the reporter a “bully” and portrayed him as a ruthless attack dog who had a vendetta against him. German was working on a follow-up story about Telles and his office when he was killed.
The Review-Journal is now in the position of having to report on the death of its own reporter. The paper’s executive editor, Glenn Cook, said “the arrest of Robert Telles is at once an enormous relief and an outrage for the Review-Journal newsroom. We are relieved Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for reporting on an elected official.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, eight journalists have been murdered in the U.S. since 1992, when the organization began keeping track, including four who were killed in a mass shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2018.