SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — A high-priced prostitute accused of abandoning a Google executive on his yacht after shooting him up with a fatal dose of heroin never meant for the man to die, a defense attorney said Wednesday.
“There was no intent to harm or injure Mr. Hayes,” said Larry Biggam, whose Santa Cruz firm has been appointed to represent defendant Alix Tichelman. “Why would she? He was a lucrative source of income to her.”
As her parents watched quietly from the front row of a courtroom packed with media, Tichelman, 26, pleaded not guilty to prostitution, drug use and manslaughter in the death of Forrest Hayes, 51.
Her eyes were often closed during the proceedings, but she told Judge Timothy Volkmann “yes, sir” when asked if she agreed to waive her right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days.
Hayes was found dead by the captain of his 50-foot yacht Escape last November. But the circumstances of his death were not widely known until last week, when Santa Cruz police arrested Tichelman after luring her 160 miles south from Folsom with a fake story about a client who wanted to hire her at an upscale resort.
Police detective Laurel Shonfield said video surveillance from the yacht shows Tichelman injecting Hayes with heroin “and doing nothing to render aid when he overdoses,” according to court records.
Shonfield also said Tichelman has wealthy parents and dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada, and was preparing to move out of California when she was arrested.
At the hearing, Judge Volkmann denied Tichelman’s request to release her on her own recognizance and kept her bail at $1.5 million.
Her attorneys said she has been unfairly denounced in the high-profile case.
“This case is extremely sad. There are five kids without a father today. But to demonize and sensationalize and totally blame Alix Tichelman for his death is misplaced, unfair and simply wrong,” Biggam said after the hearing. “This case is about two adults who engaged in mutual, consensual drug usage in the context of a sexual encounter initiated and encouraged by Mr. Hayes.”
Meanwhile, police in Milton, Georgia have reopened their investigation into the September 2013 overdose death of Tichelman’s former boyfriend Dean Riopelle, 53, the owner of a popular Atlanta music venue and former owner of a Tampa nightclub. Police said a panicked Tichelman called police, saying her boyfriend had overdosed on something and wouldn’t respond.
She has not been charged in the case, and an autopsy report listed Riopelle’s death as an accidental overdose of heroin, alcohol and oxycodone.
Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark said detectives are planning a trip to Milton to work with authorities there on portions of the investigation.
It was not clear how long Tichelman might have been involved in prostitution, though police in Santa Cruz say she had many clients in the wealthy Silicon Valley.