LAS VEGAS — The DNA from a now-arrested elected Nevada official was found at the scene of a Las Vegas reporter's slaying, authorities said Thursday, revealing the official was also "upset" about stories the reporter was pursuing.
Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles, 45, lost his re-election bid in June amid fallout from a series of critical articles Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German published earlier this year. Telles, who faces one count of murder with a deadly weapon, made his first court appearance Thursday and was denied bail.
"It's quite chilling," Justice of the Peace Elana Graham said, "that the defendant's DNA is alleged to have been recovered from the hands of the victim, presumably during the time in which he was fighting for his life."
New details outlining what led police to close in on Telles as their prime suspect five days after German, 69, was fatally stabbed outside his home Saturday were revealed at a Thursday news conference.
"Telles was upset about articles being written by German as an investigative journalist that exposed potential wrongdoing," Las Vegas police Capt. Dori Koren said, adding at the time of the attack, Telles had recently discovered "there was additional reporting that was pending."
Authorities took Telles into custody Wednesday evening following an hourslong standoff at his home. He was hospitalized for what Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo described as self-inflicted wounds. The arrest came just hours after the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had concluded a search of his property and vehicles.
Authorities: Bloody shoes, DNA lead to Robert Telles' arrest
German was stabbed "in the late morning hours" Saturday outside his northwest Las Vegas home, police said, but authorities did not learn of his death until the following day when a 911 caller reported finding German's body on the side of his house.
Authorities initially suspected the slaying might have been carried out by a person casing German's neighborhood "to commit other crimes." A security camera photo showed the killer carrying a duffel bag and wearing an orange work shirt with reflective stripes, gloves and a wide-brimmed straw hat.
Investigators now believe Telles dressed that way to disguise his identity and ties to German, Koren said Thursday.
While searching Telles' property Wednesday, detectives collected a DNA sample from the suspect, which police said came back as a positive match for DNA found at the scene of German's killing. After receiving the results of the DNA testing later that afternoon, police obtained an arrest warrant, leading to the standoff.
Police also located a pair of shoes stained with dried blood and a straw hat during their search, Koren said, but as of Thursday, the weapon used in the attack had not been found.
Arrest report details deadly attack
A newly released arrest report obtained by the USA TODAY Network outlined that German was stabbed multiple times in a surprise attack. Authorities believe German fought back, detectives wrote in the three-page report, because he had "defensive" wounds. The suspect's DNA was found under German's fingernails.
On the morning of the attack, the report says, Telles had been in German's neighborhood for about a half-hour before the death. After the attack, the suspect stood up and "calmly walked" away from German's home, the report states.
The suspect returned to German's house minutes later, appearing "to look for something," the report reads.
A reporter who 'devoted his life' to journalism
German joined the Review-Journal in 2010 after more than two decades at the Las Vegas Sun, where he was a columnist and reporter who covered courts, politics, labor, government and organized crime. He was 69.
In a statement, German’s family called him “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,” the statement said. “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.”
CHARGES RELATED TO BORDER WALL FUND:Longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon pleads not guilty in NY
POLICE IDENTIFY SUSPECT:4 dead, 3 injured after man goes on hourslong shooting spree in Memphis, authorities say
Glenn Cook, executive editor of the Review-Journal, said in a statement that “the arrest of Robert Telles is at once 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,” the statement said. “Journalists can’t do the important work our communities require if they are afraid a presentation of facts could lead to violent retribution. We thank Las Vegas police for their urgency and hard work and for immediately recognizing the terrible significance of Jeff’s killing.”
“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,” it said.
Suspect complained about news articles
Telles, a lawyer who practiced probate and estate law, won his elected position in 2018, replacing a three-term public administrator. He lost his June party primary to Assistant Public Administrator Rita Reid, who faces a Republican challenger in November. Telles’ term expires Dec. 31.
In the weeks before the election, German bylined reports about an office “mired in turmoil and internal dissension” between longtime employees and new hires under Telles’ leadership.
Telles blamed “old-timers” for exaggerating the extent of his relationship with a female staffer and falsely claiming that he mistreated them. He said all of his employees were "happy" and they'd "almost doubled the productivity in the office."
Telles later posted Twitter complaints about German, the Review-Journal reported, including claims in June that German was a bully who was “obsessed” with him.
German, a reporter with a reputation for tenacity, was working on follow-up reports, the newspaper said Wednesday, and recently filed public records requests for emails and text messages between Telles and three other county officials, including Reid and consultant Michael Murphy.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Rio Lacanlale is the Las Vegas correspondent for the Reno Gazette Journal and the USA Today Network. Contact her at email@example.com