The attorney representing a high-priced escort charged in the heroin overdose death of a Google executive on his yacht in Santa Cruz says his client was encouraged to use drugs during the encounters, for which she was paid thousands of dollars.
Attorney Lawrence Biggam told reporters that his client, 26-year-old Alix Catherine Tichelman of Folsom, was engaged in "mutual consensual drug usage in the context of a sexual encounter initiated and encouraged by Forrest Hayes," the 51-year-old Google executive who was found dead on his yacht in November.
Tichelman was arrested in connection with the death earlier this month. She pleaded not guilty Wednesday to manslaughter, destroying evidence and several other charges related to administering and possessing heroin.
Police say surveillance video on the yacht shows Tichelman administering Hayes a dose of heroin, but when he overdoses, she packs up her things and leaves instead of calling for help. His body was later found by the ship's captain.
Even Santa Cruz police Deputy Chief Steve Clark has said he does not believe Tichelman intended to kill Hayes, adding that administering heroin was likely “part of her routine.”
But county prosecutor Rafael Vazquez told the Los Angeles Times that the charges filed against Tichelman reflected the evidence presented to him.
Investigators, he added, were still looking into the case and could still present new evidence.
But Biggam said his client has been demonized in the media for a relationship which she had no motivation to end.
"There was no intent to harm or injure, much less kill, Mr. Hayes. Why would she? He was a lucrative source of income to her. She appreciated his generosity," Biggam told KSWB-TV.
The two had reportedly met on the website SeekingArriangement.com, and had maintained an "ongoing prostitution relationship," according to police.
The circumstances of Hayes’ death have prompted police in Georgia to reexamine the case of 53-year-old Dean Riopelle, who died in the presence of Tichelman in his suburban Atlanta home in 2013.
Riopelle, owner of the Masquerade nightclub, died of what was ruled an accidental heroin and alcohol overdose while Tichelman, whom he was dating, was in the shower, police in Milton, Ga., said.
Despite the security camera footage in the Santa Cruz case, Biggins said, any attempt to totally blame his client for Hayes death is "misplaced, unfair, and simply wrong. She's like a wounded bird."
Tichelman remains in custody in lieu of $1.5-million bail.