Woman charged in tech exec’s death probed in earlier heroin death


A day after Santa Cruz prosecutors charged a suspected escort in the fatal heroin overdose of a Silicon Valley executive, police officials in Georgia said Thursday they were reexamining another drug overdose case in which she was a key witness.

Alix Tichelman, 26, is being held in a Santa Cruz County jail, accused of administering heroin to 51-year-old Forrest Hayes, a former Sun Microsystems, Apple and Google executive, on his 50-foot yacht “The Escape” last November.

That case has prompted police in Milton, Ga., to reexamine the September 2013 death of 53-year-old Dean Riopelle, which occurred under somewhat similar circumstances. Tichelman told police at the time that she was in the shower when she heard a “loud crash” then found Riopelle unconcious.


The Fulton County Medical Examiner determined he died from an overdose of heroin and alcohol. The death was ruled accidental and Tichelman moved to the Sacramento suburb of Folsom soon after.

Officials in Georgia stressed they have no new evidence but are going take a harder look at the case.

“We are re-examining the case to make sure that we did not miss anything,” said Milton police Capt. Shawn McCarty.

Santa Cruz police said Tichelman maintained a clientele of more than 200 “wealthy and influential” customers -- many of whom she met through a website dedicated to connecting the wealthy with attractive young women. Hayes was among her clients, police said.

Authorities allege that after Tichelman purportedly fixed a dose of heroin for Hayes and injected him with it, he became unconscious and died.

Police and prosecutors said what happened next was caught on a security tape. After he collapsed, Tichelman allegedly moved his body around for seven minutes cleaning up -- picking up drugs, needles and straightening out the bed, according to police. She lifted his limp arm then dropped it and stepped over his body to finish off a glass of wine and then tried to wipe off her fingerprints, officials say.


Authorities are quick to note that they’re not claiming Tichelman deliberately killed Hayes, but that she intentionally avoided helping him to save herself.

“The only person Alix Tichelman cares about is Alex Tichelman,” said Santa Cruz Deputy Chief Steve Clark.

Hayes’ body was found the next morning by the ship’s captain.

Clark said that when Tichelman was arrested last week, she had a needle full of heroin in her purse. Authorities lured her to a swanky Santa Cruz hotel by posing as a client willing to pay $1,000 for her company and said they believe she planned to get high during the encounter, he added.

Tichelman is charged with manslaughter, several drug related felonies and destroying evidence. She is scheduled to be arraigned July 16.

Neither she nor her attorney could be reached for comment.