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Woman charged in death of Silicon Valley tech executive

CrimeHomicideLaw EnforcementSun Microsystems Inc.Alix Tichelman
Police say woman suspected in Silicon Valley tech exec's death may have ties to a similar case out of state

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, police say a high-priced call girl arrived at the yacht of a Silicon Valley tech executive she had met on the Internet.

Santa Cruz police said a camera on the yacht recorded video of Alix Catherine Tichelman injecting heroin into the man and of her later watching his body go limp. Instead of calling 911, police allege she packed up her needles and heroin, stepped over the man's body and gulped down a glass of wine. Then she left, but reached back into the yacht to tug down on the blinds, making sure nobody could see inside, detectives said.

Tichelman was charged Wednesday in connection with the overdose death of 51-year-old Forrest Hayes, who had worked for Sun Microsystems, Apple and Google.

"She showed no regard for him," Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark told reporters Tuesday. "She was just trying to cover her tracks."

Tichelman faces charges of manslaughter, multiple drug-related felonies, and three misdemeanors of prostitution and destroying evidence.

In an initial court appearance Wednesday, she wore a red jail jumpsuit and dark fingernail polish and often stared straight ahead or at the ground. Two women who answered the phones at numbers connected to her family said they had no comment. Tichelman's arraignment was continued until July 16.

Police detectives said that during their investigation, they discovered a similar case in another state with ties to Tichelman. They would not provide further details but said that case was under investigation.

On a Facebook page that appears to belong to Tichelman, she posted a modeling photo the day after Hayes' death. Then in late June of this year, she posted a note that read: "It's really nice to talk with someone about killing sprees and murdering people in cold blood…and they love it too. No judgement…Take a look around you. Life is hard and then you die."

A couple of days later, she announced to her friends on Facebook -- where she described her employment history as "Model/Makeup Artist/Hustler" -- that she was planning to move back to Atlanta.

She was already a suspect by then, and word that she might leave the area prompted detectives to speed up the investigation.

Four days later, Tichelman was taken into custody at a resort in Santa Cruz, lured by a detective she thought was a client offering to pay more than $1,000. During interviews with police she boasted about having more than 200 clients and officials found emails and text messages she exchanged with several clients, including Hayes, according to a statement from Santa Cruz police.

Through messages posted on a memorial website, a profile of the onetime Google and Apple engineer emerged as a problem-solving father who loved cars and his boat, and who frequently yearned to spend more time with his family.

Hayes was confident in his opinions and even-handed in his leadership, co-workers said.

"I believe you learn a great deal about a person when times are tough," a former Apple co-worker wrote on a blog dedicated to remembering Hayes. "At times like these Forrest was at his best. He was a true leader, calmly addressing the situation, no matter how difficult. He always maintained a sense of humor, a sense of perspective."

Hayes loved speeding his modified Porsche along Bay Area highways, but also owned a Chevy Volt -- compromising horsepower for an electric car that gave him access to a carpool lane that meant a shorter commute and more time with his family, another colleague said.

A third colleague, identified only as "Obi" on the site, said Hayes made a big impression in the short time they worked together.

"We talked about our families and what our kids were doing, how you were spending less time on a plane these days, you told me to get more help when things were stressful after my second child was born," Obi wrote. "Small things, but real life. You cared so much about your family and those around you."

joseph.serna@latimes.com

marisa.gerber@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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CrimeHomicideLaw EnforcementSun Microsystems Inc.Alix Tichelman
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