How an Obscure Democrat Became the Scariest Man in Las Vegas

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Photo illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/Courtesy of the Los Vegas Police Department

John Cahill never saw it coming.

In 2018, after serving 12 years as public administrator for Clark County, a low-key elected office responsible for securing the estates of recently deceased Las Vegans, Cahill anointed a fellow Democrat as his potential successor. His choice? A 45-year-old Mississippi-born HVAC technician turned attorney named Robert Telles.

Cahill told The Daily Beast that no one had noticed any potential problems with Telles at the time. And in the end, his endorsement of the married father of three, who was named Nevada Legal Service’s “Pro Bono Attorney of the Year” in 2014, proved fruitful when Telles won the Democratic nomination, then the general election.

“Every contact I had [with Telles] was a positive,” Cahill said. “His classmates in law school, a few of them were lawyers who said he would do a great job.”

Once Telles took over, Cahill started to get wind of problems, such as whispers from employees that Telles was “quite hostile when he thinks people are pushing him back.”

Then, Las Vegas Review Journal Investigative journalist Jeff German’s articles appeared in May about Telles allegedly presiding over an atmosphere of bullying and nepotism in Cahill’s old workplace. (Telles denied the allegations.)

But even after the two longtime allies exchanged a mini-war of words on Facebook, Cahill insisted he wouldn’t describe Telles — who lost a re-election bid in the wake of German coverage — as a violent man.

Which made what happened next all the more impressive.

On Wednesday evening, Telles was arrested after allegedly disguising himself and fatally stabbing the German seven times during an altercation next to the journalist’s garage the previous Friday morning.

‘How could he be so stupid? How could he think he could get away with this?” asked Cahill. “It’s all pointless.”

“It’s so mind-boggling,” he added. “[Telles] stalked him. He hunted him. He was given a disguise. He has thought a lot about this. It’s still hard to believe.”

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The macabre murder — and Telles’ subsequent arrest after authorities found his TBEN under the German’s fingernails — has shaken journalists, fueled the fervor of the right-wing media and sent shockwaves through the entire Las Vegas community.

How Murdered Journalist Jeff German’s Colleagues Hunted His Alleged Killer

But for some people who knew the man or worked nearby, it was his own odyssey to imagine how some sort of bookkeeper of death might have transformed himself into a cold-blooded killer.

“I’m going to see him tomorrow and find out what’s going on,” criminal defense attorney Ozzie Fumo, who says he was friends with both German and Telles, told The Daily Beast, referring to an upcoming prison visit. “There are so many questions.”

Telles has yet to file a plea and is due to appear in court for the first time on Tuesday. Neither his family nor a lawyer could be reached for comment.

The disgraced politician is being held without bond at the Clark County Detention Center after being briefly treated for “self-inflicted injuries” following his arrest on Wednesday. Police arrested Telles after an hour-long dramatic confrontation in which he barricaded himself inside his home and police called Fumo to persuade their husband to surrender.

“I don’t know why they called me, but I didn’t think twice. I was like, ‘Of course’, I wanted to help them. I wanted to help Rob,” Fumo said, remembering the strange 22-minute drive. “However, they got him out of the house before I got there. I’m just glad everyone’s okay.”

Fumo said he has been in contact with Telles’ family and that his wife has not yet spoken to her husband on Friday afternoon, but was “devastated and focused only on their children”.

Authorities have not provided an explicit motive for the stabbing on September 2. But Captain Dori Koren of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department said on Thursday that “Telles was angry about articles written by German as an investigative reporter that revealed possible wrongdoing, and Telles had publicly expressed his concerns with that coverage.”

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“And in the end, Telles was also upset — from what we later found out — that additional reporting was pending,” Koren added.

German’s earlier coverage may have doomed Telles’ re-election campaign in June, prompting the public administrator to lash out at the journalist publicly online.

“Looking forward to lying smear piece #4 of [Jeff German]Telles tweeted on June 18, just a week before admitting his defeat. “One trick pony, I think he’s mad I didn’t crawl into a hole and died.”

Despite Telles’ online fervor, Fumo insisted on Friday that his old friend was more “sad” about German’s coverage than angry. Fumo said Telles even contacted him after German’s first story in May in which he accused him of fostering a toxic workplace and said he was “upset and sad…but didn’t say anything specific about Jeff.”

“I’m surprised he would be so angry about a story to do something,” he told The Daily Beast.

However, Cahill said rumors of Telles’ behavior were so alarming that he even offered to speak with his successor last year. The idea was scrapped, he said, at the urging of some current employees, who feared Telles would retaliate for their conversation with their old boss.

“I go back and forth on whether there was an indication that I missed? Some kind of signal?” said Cahill. “It wasn’t a matter of mood. It’s not like he walked up to him in a bar and punched him in the face.”

Indeed, Koren detailed on Thursday how surveillance footage captured the suspect wearing a large straw hat and construction-style shirt, apparently to hide his identity. But investigators were quickly able to identify the suspect’s vehicle – a GMC Yukon Denali – which Koren said had been spotted several times near German.

A neighbor, Jay Sabs, told The Daily Beast that his home security camera captured the man police identified as Telles walking back and forth in front of his home at about 11 a.m. last Friday on the northwest corner of Bronze Circle and Wintergreen Drive. Sabs, 30, described the images as the auburn Yukon passing his house and then the man pacing for about 10 to 15 minutes.

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Sabs said he has not seen the Yukon himself and has turned over the footage to the police. (Vegas Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.) Ultimately, reporters from the Review-Journal found Telles’ car via Google Maps after the police made a call for information, as the reporters told The Daily Beast.

Authorities were able to link the SUV to Telles’ car and eventually execute a search warrant at his home on Wednesday. Although no murder weapon was found in the house, police found cut shoes and a similar but destroyed straw hat, as well as bloodied shoes. They returned to arrest him hours later.

For Patsy Brown, the Republican nominee running for the position Telles would leave in December, the nature of the act made the murder charge all the more shocking.

“This is normally a position at the bottom of the ballot that happens to have to do with death,” she emphasized. “I spend most of my time explaining the feature to people because they don’t even know what it is.”

Brown also raised a troubling possibility: that German’s family may have to work with Telles’ old office to manage the beloved reporter’s estate. After all, in addition to securing the property of recently deceased persons while their relatives are identified and located, the public administration can also act as an estate administrator under extreme circumstances.

“It’s like a funeral parlor has these kinds of pranks,” she said. “This office should help grieving families figure out how to handle the property of their lost loved ones. Now someone in that office is being accused of causing that loss. It’s surreal.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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