Watch CBS News

Inside account: Murdered Las Vegas reporter's colleagues chased clues as they grieved

Newspaper covers murder of its reporter
Inside the Las Vegas Review-Journal's murder coverage of one of its own workers 07:15

When investigative reporter Jeff German was murdered in Las Vegas, there was an extraordinary twist. Police made the shocking arrest of a sitting public official who had been accused of wrongdoing in reports written by German.

The staff at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where German worked, covered the huge story while grieving the loss of one of their coworkers.

"Sheriff tells me, 'Jeff's dead.' And it's just a punch in the face," said executive editor Glenn Cook. "As distraught as I am, I'm not even remotely considering the possibility he had been murdered."

But the head of the paper's investigative unit, Rhonda Prast, got nervous after homicide detectives announced a briefing in German's neighborhood.

German's body was discovered lying outside of his house with seven stab wounds; four in the neck.

Cook told CBS News that there is a list of people who he thought could have been connected to German's killing.

"It's a line of people from here to Los Angeles," Cook said. "He covered a ton of bad people who did a lot of bad things."

For more than forty years, German ran down gangsters and grifters, spot-lit public corruption, and exposed the shadowed venality behind the neon of Sin City. 

Prast said she had a feeling of who could've been behind German's murder — Clark County public administrator Robert Telles.

The position is a bottom-of-the-ballot office that administers wills and estates, but German reported that Telles bullied his employees and even had an inappropriate relationship with one of them. Last May, Telles told the Las Vegas Review that he did not have an improper relationship or mistreat the workers. Telles later lost his primary bid for reelection.

Police released a video of the suspect wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat, orange clothing and gloves while walking in German's neighborhood the morning of his death.

Cook said that people in the newsroom compared the way the suspect walked to video the paper had of Telles walking down a hallway—and they noticed a striking similarity.

"It's an 'Oh my God' moment for people in the newsroom," Cook said.

The investigation heated up when police asked for the public's help in finding a maroon GMC Yukon, the suspect's car. A tipster shared a social media post with Review-Journal staff suggesting the Yukon could belong to Telles.

Reporters turned to an unlikely tool: Google Maps  They search Telles' home address. Parked in the driveway? A maroon GMC Yukon.

Through their shock, reporters and photographers for the Review-Journal staked out Telles' neighborhood.

"The whole situation had its own sense of absurdity.," said multimedia journalist James Schaeffer about his colleagues investigating the death of one of their own. 

Police searched Telles' house and say they found a mutilated sun hat and sneakers with blood stains. They also say DNA from the crime scene matches Telles.

"It's a hell of a story," Cook said. "A sitting elected official is a person of interest in the murder of an investigative reporter in the United States. It's unbelievable."

Five days after German's killing, Telles was arrested. The headline on the front page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal read, "A Stunning Arrest" in the "murder of a journalist."

"We will have a hole in our newsroom," said crime reporter Sabrina Schnur. "I don't think our city will ever grasp how much he did. But our newsroom will."

Telles has been charged with murder. He has not entered a plea in court yet.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.