An escort who injected a former Google executive with a fatal dose of heroin aboard his yacht in Santa Cruz pleaded guilty Tuesday to multiple felonies, including involuntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Alix Tichelman’s public defender, Jerry Christensen, credited Santa Cruz County prosecutors with reducing the manslaughter charge against her from voluntary to involuntary, which led to her guilty plea, he said.
Tichelman also pleaded guilty to destroying evidence and multiple drug and prostitution charges, said county prosecutor Rafael Vazquez.
Tichelman, 27, injected her client, Forrest Hayes, 51, a former Apple, Google and Sun Microsystems engineer, with heroin aboard his 50-foot yacht in November 2013. His body was found by the ship’s captain.
Tichelman was not arrested until last summer, when investigators obtained security video from Hayes’ yacht showing Tichelman giving him the injection.
Santa Cruz police portrayed her as an “ice cold” femme fatale who callously injected Hayes, watched him collapse, then stepped over his body to clean up the scene, finish a glass of wine and disappear.
But Christensen said the video showed that Hayes used his own belt to tie off his arm and prepared his own vein for the dose. When he collapsed, Tichelman simply panicked, Christensen said.
“They were making her a black widow-type of human being. That’s far from the truth and outrageous,” he said. “It was a very confined space. You couldn’t move without stepping over the body. She ‘carefully and calmly collected evidence?’ They found a syringe with heroin residue. They found the heroin itself. She left two doors wide open.”
Tichelman and Hayes had reportedly met on the website SeekingArrangement.com, and had maintained an “ongoing prostitution relationship,” according to police.
The circumstances of Hayes’ death 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.
Tichelman has been in jail for nearly a year and will have to serve only 50% of her sentence with good behavior, meaning she could be out in two years, her attorney said.
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