As a longtime reporter in Las Vegas, Jeff German often wrote about the who’s who of the underbelly in Sin City.
He covered mobsters and murderers, crooked officials and corrupt government agencies. And in recent months, he wrote about claims of bullying and hostility in a little-known office run by an elected county official.
German, a 69-year-old reporter with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was found dead outside his home Saturday morning with stab wounds, a grisly end to a career dedicated to uncovering the truth in the Vegas area.
That elected county official he had written about – Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles – is now being held on a charge of his murder, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo announced Thursday.
“This is a terrible and jarring homicide, one that has deeply impacted Las Vegas. Every murder is tragic but the killing of a journalist is particularly troublesome,” Lombardo said.
Those who knew and worked with German described him as an ideal example of an investigative reporter.
“Jeff is the ultimate Vegas reporter. He’s been here 30 years, he’s covered everything from the mob to the fire at the MGM Grand, to the – we covered the October 1 shooting (at a music festival in 2017) together,” said Arthur Kane, a reporter at the Review-Journal. “He basically was a 100% hard-hitting reporter, and this was the kind of work he was going to do for as long as he could.”
“The Review-Journal family is devastated to lose Jeff,” Review-Journal executive editor Glenn Cook said. “He was the gold standard of the news business. It’s hard to imagine what Las Vegas would be like today without his many years of shining a bright light on dark places.”
In recent months, German had written about allegations of wrongdoing in the Clark County Public Administrator’s office, reporting that Telles created a hostile work environment and carried on an inappropriate relationship with a staffer.
In response to the articles, Telles published posts on his campaign’s website and wrote a letter to German in which he called the allegations “false” and insisted that German was trying to “drag me through the mud.” In June, Telles lost his bid for reelection in a Democratic primary.
Investigators knew that Telles was upset with German for his reporting and put him on a list of persons of interest, Las Vegas Metro Police Capt. Dori Koren said. They soon connected German to the suspect’s vehicle and found blood on his shoes and located his DNA at the crime scene, all evidence that led to his arrest Wednesday, Koren said.
German was stabbed seven times, Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Scow said during Telles’s court appearance Thursday. The DNA evidence was found under the journalist’s fingernails, he said, a detail Justice of the Peace Elana Lee Graham called “quite chilling.”
“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,” Graham said, noting that German had several “defensive wounds on his hands and arms.”
Telles was denied bail and is expected back in court on September 13.
Despite all those years of reporting on mobsters, murderers and underworld figures, it was a local elected official who was charged with his killing, CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller noted.
“I think when you look at Jeff German, though – the mob, criminal organizations, murderers, stories in the desert about buried gold – if you asked me who would be behind the murder of Jeff German I would have gone through a long list before I would have found my way to a public official who worked in a boring job dealing with people’s wills and estates in an office where people called him a bully,” he said.
Over three decades reporting in Sin City
Long a fixture in the Vegas reporting scene, German worked for more than two decades at the Las Vegas Sun and then joined the Review-Journal in 2010, according to a profile in the Review-Journal.
His work often exposed alleged wrongdoing and corruption in government. For example, he and other reporters uncovered evidence of wasteful spending at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the government agency that came up with the “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” slogan. The investigative series led to an audit of the authority and charges against several agency executives.
He also reported on the devastating mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. According to his reporting, the gunman fired at two giant jet fuel tanks at an airport near the festival, striking one of them, before turning on the crowd of concertgoers. Though the fuel tank did not erupt, the reporting led to a review of the fuel system’s safety, the Review-Journal reported.
Other focuses of his work were the close ties between the mob and casinos in Vegas over the decades, including in the 1998 murder of Vegas casino magnate Ted Binion.
In 2001, German wrote the book “Murder in Sin City: The Death of a Las Vegas Casino Boss,” billed as “a stunning account of human deterioration and depravity, a neon-tinged view of the poisonous rot that festers beneath the Vegas glitter.”
Miller, the CNN analyst, said he worked with German on the Binion story and praised his work.
“He was part of a small club of American reporters who was an investigative reporter who took on the mob, who took on casinos, corruption, all the things you can find in the underbelly of a place like Las Vegas, and he did it fearlessly and with precision,” Miller said.
In a statement Thursday the family thanked “everyone for the outpouring of love, support and recognition for Jeff and his life’s work,” the Review-Journal reported.
“Jeff was 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. 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.”
German also expanded into podcasting in recent years. He was the writer and host of Season 2 of “Mobbed Up: The Fight for Vegas,” an eight-part true-crime series by the Review-Journal and the Mob Museum about the Aladdin Hotel’s role in the fight against organized crime in the 1970s and 80s.
“There’s no doubt Jeff was a tough reporter but he was always fair,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said on Twitter, “and I will always have immense respect for him and his work.”
The leaders of journalist organizations said the killing highlighted the dangers that reporters face.
“When we say journalism is a dangerous business, we are most often talking about international crisis and foreign correspondents, but right here in a major city in the United States, we see the depth to which dark forces may sink in order to stop publication of the truth,” said Jen Judson, President of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, President of the National Press Club Journalism Institute.
CNN’s Chuck Johnston and Caroll Alvarado contributed to this report.