LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — DNA found under investigative journalist Jeff German’s fingernails matched a sample taken from Clark County Public Administrator Rob Telles, leading to his arrest Wednesday, the 8 News Now Investigators confirmed Thursday.
Telles, 45, a Democrat and an elected official, was taken into custody after police served a search warrant at his west valley home earlier in the day. Investigators confiscated two vehicles, including one that matched the description police released in a video a few days earlier of the suspect’s vehicle.
German, 69, was found deceased outside his home on Saturday. He had published several stories about Telles’ office, saying it was in “turmoil” in the months leading up to his stabbing death last weekend.
Telles lost a three-way primary in June in the Democratic race for the public administrator job. The county position runs the office that administers a deceased person’s estate is no family is found or if the family is unable.
Telles appeared to blame German for the loss in a series of public statements and tweets, police said. One tweet read that he lost the primary because of a “[manufactured] scandal,” another reading that German was “mad that I haven’t crawled into a hole and died.”
Around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3, Las Vegas Metro police received a 911 call from a person who said they had found German deceased in a yard on the side of his home, a report obtained by the 8 News Now Investigators said.
German was found with seven stab wounds, including ones to his neck and torso, the report said. Investigators identified German as the victim from a wallet and phone in his pocket.
As police spread out to find surveillance video, they discovered a neighbor had captured a person walking in the area and arriving to German’s property the day before.
The suspect, later identified as Telles, walked into German’s yard and attacked German as he was coming out of his garage, the report said.
Telles then walked away “calmly.” Several minutes later, Telles’ maroon Denali parked in front of German’s house, the report said. Telles then returned to the property in an attempt to look for something, the report said. Telles then drove off.
The SUV did not have a license plate, the report said. In a news conference Thursday, investigators said the car is registered in Telles’ wife’s name. After investigators released photos of the car, they received several tips about its possible connection to Telles, they wrote in the report.
During a medical examination of German’s body, police recovered a suspect’s DNA from under his fingernails. Investigators suspect German attempted to defend himself in the stabbing attack.
While awaiting the DNA results, investigators found a car matching the description of the SUV seen outside of German’s home, the report said. Investigators also discovered German’s prior reporting about Telles and the issues inside the public administrator’s office.
Through other investigative means, detectives tracked Telles’ car leaving his neighborhood and driving to the murder scene, the report said.
The report obtained by the Investigators indicates police took a sample of Telles’ DNA around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. Detectives then detained Telles and questioned him, releasing him around 2 p.m. and driving him back to his house.
Telles was taken into custody around 6:30 p.m. and was found with superficial wounds. Police also suspect he may have ingested narcotics in an attempt to die by suicide.
Sheriff Joe Lombardo said the DNA evidence that connected Telles to the scene was found on a straw hat and shoes police confiscated as evidence from his home during a warrant search on Wednesday. The hat and shoes had been cut up in an effort to destroy the evidence, Capt. Dori Koren added.
“Every murder is tragic, but the killing of a journalist is particularly troublesome,” Lombardo said. “He was interviewed, he was essentially voluntarily interviewed, he had the opportunity to obtain an attorney and at the subsequent end of that interview he was let go at that time.”
“Is there going to be a look about not releasing a potential murder suspect back to his home like that?” 8 News Now Investigator David Charns asked Lombardo and Koren during Thursday’s news conference.
“We have a very professional and effective way of how we take people into custody in these types of situations — and that was proven yesterday,” Koren said.
“Something could have happened in that two-hour window,” Charns said.
“We wanted to provide him medical attention, which we were successful in doing, and then we also wanted to make sure that we were consulting with our district attorney’s office and sharing a solid case — building the evidence, and that’s what we did successfully,” Koren said.
Judge Elana Lee Graham ordered Telles to be held without bail in his first court appearance Thursday afternoon. Telles was due in court again next week.
Clark County officials released a statement Thursday saying they suspended Telles’ access to all county offices and property. The county statement said options going forward are being reviewed.
“The public administrator is an elected position and the county is reviewing its options under the law regarding Robert Telles’ current status as the public administrator,” it said.
“I was shocked and horrified by the news of the murder of Las Vegas Review-Journal journalist Jeff German,” Nevada State Democratic Party chair Judith Whitmer said in a statement. “Freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy, and this Constitutional right is held as sacred for good reason: a free press serves to hold the powerful accountable, which keeps us all safe, be it from simple graft or from a full descent into fascism. No journalist should have to live in fear of doing their job–speaking truth to power–and doing it well.”