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Official’s DNA linked to Las Vegas reporter’s stabbing, police say

Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo at a news conference in Las Vegas on Thursday. (John Locher/AP)

A government official was arrested on a charge of open murder in the stabbing of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German, police said Thursday.

Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles, 45, whom German had reported on for months, was taken into custody Wednesday, police said. German, 69, was found dead Saturday morning, the county coroner’s office said, and his cause of death was multiple sharp-force injuries.

Telles was a person of interest early in the investigation as authorities looked into possible work-related grievances or conflicts, Las Vegas police Capt. Dori Koren said at a news conference Thursday. He did not disclose a specific motive.

Upon a search of Telles’s home, police recovered a pair of shoes and a straw hat that matched those worn in a previously released photo of the suspect, police said Thursday. Both items were cut, probably in an attempt to destroy evidence, Koren said. He added that Telles’s DNA was a positive match for DNA recovered from the crime scene.

“Telles was upset about articles that were being written by German as an investigative journalist that exposed potential wrongdoing, and Telles has publicly expressed his issues with that reporting,” Koren said Thursday.

A well-known journalist in Nevada, German covered the unrest in Telles’s office, his alleged relationship with a subordinate staffer, and allegations that the county official’s employees had made against him, which included bullying, favoritism and emotional stress. In June, Telles conceded a Democratic primary race for the post to his deputy and criticized German’s reporting on Twitter.

“Looking forward to lying smear piece #4 by @JGermanRJ,” Telles wrote in a June 18 tweet. “#onetrickpony I think he’s mad that I haven’t crawled into a hole and died.”

In the weeks before German was killed, he was planning a follow-up report on Telles, the Review-Journal said. He had been waiting on a public-records request.

Telles appeared in court for the first time on Thursday, where Judge Elana Lee Graham ruled that he would be held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center. His next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.

“We are relieved Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for reporting on an elected official,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said to the paper on Wednesday. “Journalists can’t do the important work our communities require if they are afraid a presentation of facts could lead to violent retribution.”

Fifty journalists and media workers worldwide have been killed this year, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Those deaths included people who died during dangerous assignments and those who appeared to have been targeted.

German is the only reported death of a journalist or media worker in the United States this year; since 1992, 16 have been killed across the country.

One of the worst attacks on an American newspaper was in 2018, when a gunman killed five people and wounded several others at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md. The gunman had previously lost a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper for its 2011 reporting on a criminal harassment charge against him. Prosecutors argued that he was out for “revenge,” and the jury found him criminally responsible for the rampage.

In a statement to the Review-Journal, German’s family said they were “shocked, saddened and angry about his death.”

“Jeff was committed to seeking justice for others and would appreciate the hard work by local police and journalists in pursuing his killer,” the statement said. “We look forward to seeing justice done in this case.”

Recounting the timeline of the incident, Koren said German had an altercation with the suspect around 11 a.m. Friday near the side of his home, after which he was stabbed multiple times.

For decades, German covered labor, courts, organized crime, political scandals and more in Las Vegas, joining the Review-Journal in 2010 after spending more than 20 years at the Las Vegas Sun. His colleagues remembered him as a fierce journalist who was committed to his craft.

Over the course of his career, German became known for his investigative work and coverage of high-profile stories on politics and organized crime. He wrote the 2001 true-crime book “Murder in Sin City: The Death of a Las Vegas Casino Boss,” and he led the paper’s investigation of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest in modern U.S. history. He hosted the Review-Journal podcast “Mobbed Up.”

Cook told The Washington Post in a statement that German had not shared with management any concerns about his safety. Police said there was no threat to the public after the stabbing, the Review-Journal reported.

On Monday, police released a surveillance image of the person suspected of killing German. It showed a person wearing a large straw hat and an orange reflective shirt. The next day, police released a photo of the vehicle linked to the suspect: a maroon GMC Yukon Denali.

After police released the vehicle image on Tuesday, Review-Journal reporters saw Telles standing next to a matching vehicle in his driveway. The GMC and a second vehicle were towed away from Telles’s property on Wednesday afternoon, the Review-Journal reported.

On Thursday, Koren said the GMC was registered to Telles’s wife, and police had video evidence that showed the vehicle departing around 9 a.m. on the day of the killing and returning after noon, matching the incident timeline.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Telles arrived at his home, wearing what appeared to be a white hazmat suit, videos posted online by reporters show.

“Did you commit this murder?” one reporter asked on the video. “Did you do this?”

As reporters continued asking questions, Telles silently walked into the garage and closed it.

Local news outlets reported an hours-long standoff at Telles’s home later Wednesday. Videos posted online showed SWAT team members outside the house and someone on a stretcher being taken to an ambulance. During Thursday’s news conference, police said Telles had self-inflicted, non-life-threatening injuries, but they did not disclose further details.

The investigation is ongoing and remains a priority for Las Vegas police, officials said.

“Every murder is tragic, but the killing of a journalist is particularly troublesome,” Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.

In remembrance of German, Review-Journal editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez created a piece titled “His light will shine on.”

The cartoon shows a typewriter illuminated by the halo of a candle alongside a Bible verse: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

Elahe Izadi contributed to this report.

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