A high-priced prostitute accused of abandoning a Google executive on his yacht after injecting him up with a fatal dose of heroin never meant for the man to die because he was paying her well, a defence lawyer said today.
“There was no intent to harm or injure Mr. Hayes,” said Larry Biggam, representing 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 in Santa Cruz, California packed with media, Tichelman, 26, pleaded not guilty to prostitution, drug use and manslaughter over 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 50ft 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 with a fake story about a client who wanted to hire her at an upmarket 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 US and Canada, and was preparing to move out of California when she was arrested.
Her lawyers 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 demonise and sensationalise 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 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. Police said a panicked Tichelman called police, saying her boyfriend had overdosed on something and wouldn’t respond.
She has not been charged, and a post mortem report listed Riopelle’s death as an accidental overdose of heroin, oxycodone and alcohol.