LAS VEGAS — A judge on Thursday denied bail to an elected official charged with murder in the death of investigative journalist Jeff German, who was stabbed multiple times outside his home over the weekend of the Labor Day in what authorities described as a retaliatory killing.
“It’s quite chilling,” Justice of the Peace Elana Graham said, “that the defendant’s DNA would have been recovered from the hands of the victim, presumably during the time he was fighting for his life.”
Robert Telles, the outgoing Clark County public administrator, was arrested at his home on Wednesday after a standoff that dragged on for several hours into the evening as police locked down his neighborhood in west Las Vegas and additional emergency resources from across the valley responded, including SWAT and K-9 units and medical personnel.
After he refused to leave his home and surrender, police eventually entered the house and took Telles into custody, according to a new police report obtained by USA Today Network on Thursday. He was taken to an area hospital after his arrest for treatment for “superficial injuries” to his arms, and then held in a jail in downtown Las Vegas.
Telles is expected to be formally charged next week at an arraignment hearing on one count of murder with a deadly weapon.
Defense attorney Travis Shetler told the judge on Thursday that he plans to argue for a bail reduction at next week’s hearing. Shetler did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the allegations against his client.
Arms bandaged and shackled at the wrists, Telles stood behind his attorney in a basement courtroom the day after his arrest, the two separated by a glass partition. Throughout the hearing, Telles held a glazed look at the judge as Chief Assistant District Attorney Richard Scow detailed the violent crime – and German’s ties to the suspect.
German was stabbed at least seven times outside his home on Sept. 2, Scow said, by an assailant dressed in an orange work shirt with reflective strips and a straw hat.
But beneath those layers of clothing, Scow said, was a man “lashing out at the cause of the collapse of his life.”
Telles, a married father of three, had been the subject of critical reporting earlier this year by German, a longtime Nevada journalist known for his stories exposing government corruption and political scandals.
German’s reporting exposed an allegedly hostile work environment at the Clark County Public Administrator’s office plagued by intimidation and retaliation under Telles’ leadership.
The stories, which were published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where German worked for decades, also revealed an alleged “inappropriate relationship” between Telles and a staff member.
Scow, the prosecutor, said Thursday that the suspect’s career and marriage ended after allegations shared with German by the suspect’s current and former employees became public.
Amid the fallout, Clark County voters rejected Telles, who was running for re-election, in the Nevada primary election in June. He lost his Democratic primary to his second in command, Rita Reid.
Authorities also revealed Thursday that at the time of the attack, Telles was upset because he had recently discovered “there was an additional report” by German “which was pending.”
When Telles was escorted away by officers after the judge’s decision, District Attorney Steve Wolfson slipped out of the courtroom gallery to speak to reporters.
“This is a very, very tragic event for a number of reasons,” Wolfson said, as “a respected journalist lost his life in a very brutal and meaningless way.”
He declined to speculate whether prosecutors would seek the death penalty – a decision he said would be made months later “if at all”.
But, when asked if prosecutors had a strong case against Telles, Wolfson said the evidence, particularly the DNA results, was “very compelling”.
This forensic evidence is what led police to close in on Telles as the prime suspect in what has been described by authorities as a “very fluid and dynamic” investigation.
“This has been an unusual case from the start,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters hours earlier when Las Vegas police held their own news conference.
In the days after German’s death, police said it appeared the knife attack was carried out by someone calling on the neighborhood to “commit more crimes.”
It’s a theory authorities insisted on even in the 24 hours before the arrest – until early Wednesday.
At around 7 a.m., officers descended on Telles’ two-story home near Sahara Avenue and Fort Apache Road to execute search warrants — driven there, in part, by anonymous tipsters who noticed a GMC Yukon Denali outside the house shortly after police released. public a description and photo of the vehicle believed to be linked to the murder.
There in the driveway that morning, according to police, sat a maroon 2007 GMC Yukon Denali with chrome detailing, a sunroof and a roof rack, like the vehicle shown in surveillance footage.
Police searched the nearly 3,000 square foot home for more than six hours on Wednesday before packing up around 2 p.m. and towing the GMC away.
Telles, an attorney, had voluntarily spoken with detectives during the search, authorities confirmed Thursday morning. But they stopped short of divulging what Telles shared in the interview.
Detectives dropped Telles off at his home in an unmarked white sedan shortly after investigators completed their search. Dressed in an oversized white jumpsuit, Telles rushed inside and, for a moment, it looked like ongoing police activity in the neighborhood had come to a halt for the day.
But during that quiet window, according to Lombardo and Wolfson, authorities were awaiting forensic test results to obtain an arrest warrant.
The police returned around 4 p.m., warrant in hand, hoping that Telles would turn himself in.
An officer approached the blue front door and knocked.
He tried again, shouting through the door: “Subway police!
No answer. When that failed, officers emerged from marked and unmarked cars dotted around the neighborhood, and the hours-long standoff unfolded.
Rio Lacanlale is the Las Vegas correspondent for the Reno Gazette Journal and the USA Today Network. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @riolacanlale. Support local journalism by subscribing to RGJ today.