Santa Cruz police say they tracked an escort accused of administering a fatal dose of heroin to a Google executive for months before arresting her when they feared she might leave the state.
Alix Tichelman, 26, was arrested July 4 after suddenly announcing on Facebook that she might be leaving California or the United States.
She is charged with manslaughter, drug-related felonies, destroying evidence and prostitution in connection with the November 2013 death of Silicon Valley executive Forrest Hayes, 51.
Hayes died on his yacht, Escape, and police say video captured by on-board security cameras show Tichelman giving heroin to Hayes, then cleaning up the room as he lay unconscious on the floor.
She checked his body several times and saw he was unresponsive before leaving, never calling 911, said Deputy Chief Steve Clark of the Santa Cruz Police Department.
But identifying the woman on the tape giving Hayes the heroin took months, police said. Authorities did not receive the video until January. Clark declined to discuss exactly how they learned Tichelman's identity.
Once they identified Tichelman, police learned she was a part-time model with several social media accounts, multiple addresses listed in California, Georgia and outside the country. They also discovered that she had once dated a man who died of a heroin overdose in Georgia.
"You're essentially vetting her now," Clark said of the investigation.
Santa Cruz detectives communicated with local prosecutors while comparing notes with Georgia police, who began reexamining Tichelman's boyfriend's heroin death in 2012.
"In the process of that, we're working on getting a warrant for her," Clark said. "That's when we discovered that she was fixing to head out."
Detectives were wary of tipping her off, Clark said, so police hatched a plan to keep her around. Santa Cruz police began creating what would appear from the outside to be a legitimate modeling agency that would offer her a job.
The department was setting up a modeling studio and a fake agency to give the story some credibility but were forced to move faster. In late June, she said on her Facebook account she was headed back to Georgia.
Detectives went with a Plan B: Pose as a wealthy client who would pay her $1,000 for her company. Even that posed challenges, Clark said.
"It's clear she vets her clients," he said.
Before agreeing to meet, police said, Tichelman demanded they deposit $100 into her bank account. Once that was accomplished, Tichelman arrived at a swanky Santa Cruz resort. where police took her into custody.
She is scheduled to be arraigned July 16.