Crime - Sacto 911

Folsom woman pleads guilty to manslaughter, drug charges

Alix Tichelman, arriving in court Tuesday, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and administering drugs. The judge sentenced her to six years in prison.
Alix Tichelman, arriving in court Tuesday, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and administering drugs. The judge sentenced her to six years in prison. Santa Cruz Sentinel

The saga of a high-priced Folsom prostitute who made headlines when she injected a Google executive with a lethal dose of heroin on his luxury yacht and left him there unconscious came to a close Tuesday, as she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter and administering drugs.

Alix Catherine Tichelman, 27, was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison by a Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge. Police described the Folsom woman as a heroin user and call girl who bragged of having 200 clients.

Tichelman injected Forrest Hayes, 51, with a lethal dose of heroin in late 2013, as the pair partied on his yacht docked in Santa Cruz Harbor. Prosecutors said her undoing was a surveillance video that they argue showed Hayes unconscious on the floor as Tichelman coldly gathered evidence, stepped over his body and finished a glass of wine before leaving without calling 911.

Her court-appointed attorney, Larry Biggam, said the plea reflects “the evidence, the law and the moral equities in the case,” noting that a jury would likely have convicted her based on the video.

“There was never an intention to harm Mr. Hayes,” Biggam said. “What you have is an accidental drug overdose, coupled with panic and a failure to call 911.”

Rafael Vazquez, assistant district attorney for Santa Cruz County, said a conviction would have been inevitable, given the overwhelming evidence.

“There is no ambiguity in terms of what happened,” said Vazquez, the chief prosecutor in the case. “There’s no gray area. It’s black or white. We knew what she did.”

The plea means the case, which had garnered tremendous media attention, won’t go to trial before a jury. With the case’s elements of sex, wealth and drugs, Tichelman became a poster child for the ready availability of sex for sale in the Internet age and the dalliances of Silicon Valley.

“The case was oversold, overpromised and overhyped from the beginning,” Biggam said, referring to the intense media attention.

In addition to the felony charges of manslaughter and administration of drugs, Tichelman also pleaded guilty to various misdemeanor charges, including two counts of prostitution, two counts of possessing a controlled substance and one count of destroying evidence.

Tichelman is the daughter of a successful technology executive, Bart Tichelman, who is vice president of SynapSense, a Folsom company that creates “smart building systems for controlling heating and cooling systems.”

“We have nothing to say at this point,” he said Tuesday, when reached by phone.

Tichelman will be released in about two years – shy of her 30th birthday – because of time already served and legislative mandates that call for a 50 percent reduction in the sentence, Biggam said.

“This time in jail is a healthy timeout for her to clean up her life,” Biggam said.

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