The mysterious death of a tech executive and his last night with an exotic beauty on his yacht — now a court decides her fate and stunning new details are revealed
Produced by Allen Alter and Patti Aronofsky
[This story previously aired on May 26, 2015. It was updated on July 30, 2016.]
When he’s not out looking for the big wave, there’s a big story that has consumed Stephen Baxter, a reporter for the Santa Cruz Sentinel and a “48 Hours” consultant: the mysterious death of Google executive Forrest Hayes at the city’s sprawling marina.
Forrest Hayes Memorial Site
“Forrest Hayes was … 51 years old. He lived in a pretty upper crust neighborhood,” Baxter told “48 Hours.” “He was a pretty high powered guy and … obviously had a lot of assets; he lives in a $3 million house in Santa Cruz.”
In 2013, one of the boats docked in Santa Cruz Harbor was the majestic 46-foot-long yacht called “Escape.” It belonged to Hayes. Not surprisingly, the tech exec outfitted his boat with some of the most expensive tech gear out there — about $200,000 worth, including a sophisticated security system complete with high-def cameras.
Inside, Hayes spared no expense on creature comforts, including a leather ceiling and a $8,000 captain’s chair.
The Google executive’s death caught the attention of Michael Daly. He’s an investigative reporter for The Daily Beast, in New York, and also a “48 Hours” consultant.
“I think … he was practical and imaginative at the same time,” Daly said. “Forrest Hayes started in his native Michigan … at the Ford Motor Company as a manager, he went to California for Sun Microsystems and he went on to Apple…”
Hayes then went on to Google for a high-paying job at their top-secret location, where impossible dreams are transformed into reality.
“He was hired … to work in Google X, which they call their ‘moonshot factory.’ As in, you know, the most extreme, wildest, imaginative, farthest reaching ideas they could have. You know, like Google glasses, self-driving cars,” Daly explained. “He was the guy who was actually gonna make some of these things happen.”
It’s a place so secretive, colleagues from Google X refused to divulge exactly what Hayes did there. To get away from the pressures at work, Forrest Hayes would head to the marina, and onto his prized possession.
“One of the larger boats in the harbor, I think that’s fair to say,” said Baxter.
What police would eventually discover was that the married father of five had a secret liaison. She was a young and exotic dark haired woman covered with very distinctive tattoos. And she would be the last person to see Forrest Hayes alive.
“On the night of November 22, 2013 … Forrest Hayes was on his yacht … and he didn’t come home that night. And his wife became concerned. She called the captain they retained for this yacht and he went and he got on the boat,” said Daly.
Hayes’ body was found lying in the main cabin. The captain immediately called 911, but surprisingly, it would take months before the Google executive’s death made headlines.
“There was — really no report of his death,” Baxter said. “Obviously, the police in this case were trying to keep that under wraps as they investigated.”
Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark has been on this case since day one.
“The media’s gonna want to know right off the bat.’Who is it?’ ‘Who’s responsible?’ ‘Is this a homicide?’ ‘Is this a murder?’ We didn’t have enough to really even put that out. We were busy building the case,” Clark told “48 Hours” correspondent Maureen Maher.
Building the case wasn’t easy — despite some initial crime scene clues.
“There were two wine glasses there, both which appeared to have been used,” said Clark
Investigators zeroed in on Hayes’ cell phone, launching an exhaustive digital search. They made a stunning discovery. Hayes had a profile page on a dating website, called SeekingArrangement.com. It would be a critical clue in learning the identity of that mystery tattooed woman.
It was just a few days before Thanksgiving 2013. What happened that night was recorded by the boat’s video cameras. One camera in particular caught the very last moments of Hayes’ life in chilling detail.
“Initially, we were told that the video wasn’t available from that particular camera — that actually showed the cabin of the boat. …there was indeed video that was uploaded to a cloud server. And the video from that camera was indeed available,” Clark explained. “That was one of those moments where you feel like, you know, it was 4th and 1. And you got a first down.
Actually, it took three months and a court order for detectives to get their hands on that video. When they did, it was explosive.
“That video was shocking to me,” said Clark.
“What do you see on this video?” Maher asked.
“Well, the video’s everything. The video is the case,” Clark replied.
Police have yet to release the video, but described in detail to “48 Hours” exactly what they say happened that night between the couple: essentially, it was a party for two — drugs included.
“They greet each other — a quick hug– just a quick embrace. You can see that they’re engaged in conversation. But there’s no audio,” Clark said. “…then, eventually, she — gets to the point where she starts to prepare drugs … for injection. We see her very clearly. She brought all of the equipment with her. She brought the drugs with her.”
As police would learn, the drug of choice that night was heroin.
“We see her prepare the syringe. We see her — it looks like she’s injecting herself, but her back’s to the camera,” Clark explained. “He watches this happen. And then she eventually injects him.”
“Do you feel like, at any point when you’re watching the video, that this is a guy who is afraid and doesn’t want to do this?” Maher asked.
“I get the impression … he’s nervous. He’s uncertain. But he’s going along with it,” said Clark.
“And what happens then?” Maher asked.
“Almost immediately, he starts to go into distress,” Clark explained. “At some point, she comes to him. It looks like she tries to revive him a bit … by patting him on the face and talking to him, holding his head as he slumped forward on the chair.
“And you or I, if we found ourselves in that situation, would’ve been on the phone to 911, sayin’, ‘Oh, my gosh. Something terrible’s happened. We need help.’ And she does none of that,” Clark continued.
Instead, Clark says the video shows the woman trying to remove any evidence that she was ever there — wiping fingerprints and cleaning up her drug paraphernalia.
“While he’s slumped over on the floor?” Maker asked.
“While he’s on the floor,” Clark replied.
“She’s stepping over him?” Maher asked.
“She is literally walking around the cabin of the boat … stepping over him, grabbing her glass of wine, carrying it around the boat cabin with her,” said Clark.
Clark says that portion of the video with Hayes on the floor of the cabin goes on for seven minutes.
“And that’s seven minutes that emergency medical personnel could’ve been there could have done something and could have reacted to this situation to save Mr. Hayes’ life. But instead, she does nothing, nothing to call for help or to fix this. You know, and that’s the crux of the case,” Clark told Maher.
diaz digital media
Armed with that video, police hit pay dirt. They were able to match the woman with those distinctive tattoos to a profile on the dating website Hayes had used. She was a 26-year-old aspiring model. Her name? Alix Tichelman.
WEB OF SECRETS
The wealthy Google executive found the exotic model in a somewhat secret world, where real names are rarely used.
Technically, Alix Tichelman and Forrest Hayes met in Las Vegas — not at an upscale casino or one of the fancy hotel lobby bars — but through an online website which is headquartered just a stone’s throw from the strip. But as “48 Hours” discovered, it’s not your typical dating website.
“What year did you start SeekingArrangement?” Maher asked the site’s CEO, Brandon Wade.
“It was started in 2006 from a bedroom in San Francisco, actually,” he replied.
It may have the look and feel of a start-up, but with nearly four million members worldwide, this is big business.
“SeekingArrangement.com is — a Sugar Daddy dating website, so we match wealthy guys and girls looking to pamper and spoil. And, of course, younger men and women looking to meet those wealthy people,” Wade explained.
Wade, a boyish 43-year old, says he’s become a multi-millionaire from all the “arranging” he’s been doing.
“Is SeekingArrangement about arranging sexual relationships for money?” Maher asked.
“It is about finding romance and passion,” Wade replied. “I’m unapologetic about the fact that sex is involved in a romantic relationship. And money is involved in a romantic relationship. But that doesn’t make the romantic relationship prostitution.”
Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark, the point man in the Hayes death case, strongly disagrees.
“It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to take a look at that website and figure out exactly what was going on there,” he told Maher. “The titles of the individuals are Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies. You know, that’s — there’s no innocent connotation there behind any of that.”
“What is ‘Budget’? That’s what he’s willing to spend?” Maher asked Wade as they looked at the website.
“That’s his sort of lifestyle. So it could be going out for dinners, paying for that. Going on trips,” he explained.
“OK. So does a woman think you’re gonna spend $3,000 on me? A Sugar Baby thinks, ‘You’re gonna spend — $3,000 on me,'” Maher asked.
“Yeah, on the relationship,” Wade replied.
Wade is proud that his membership ranks include employees of leading Fortune 500 companies, including, he says, from Google.
“Is Forrest Hayes a typical client?” Maher asked Wade.
“I would say — he is– an average client of ours,” he replied.
“Married tech executive looking for some sort of arrangement,” Maher commented.
“Yep. Forty percent of the guys are married,” said Wade.
It’s unknown if Hayes was fulfilling the “expectations” of any Sugar Babies’ lifestyle requests, which range from a $1,000 to over $10,000 in monthly Sugar Daddy “gifts.”
“Can you tell us anything about Alix Tichelman’s profile on SeekingArrangement?” Maher asked Wade.
“Well, the only thing I can say is that it looked like any other normal profile, so it was approved. And — there was no indication that she was soliciting money for sex. At least not with that profile,” he replied.
After Hayes’death, investigators began tracking Alix Tichelman on social media. Fearing she might leave town, they hatched a plan to catch her using SeekingArrangement.com.
“When she posted on Facebook something to the effect of — I plan to go back to Georgia — that’s when they decided to really go in and pursue her on the same website, just the way Forrest had, and pose as a john and lure her back to Santa Cruz,” reporter Stephen Baxter explained.
“We started seeing chatter from her that indicated she was either gonna move out of the country or out of the state,” said Clark.
“There’s now a clock on this ’cause she’s about to head South,” reporter Michael Daly explained. “So, they do kind of a classic sting.”
“We sold out our detective and made him set up a profile — under a different identity and made up a whole story about him. We then posted that out there and we reached out to Alix Tichelman through SeekingArrangements,” said Clark.
Code-named “Sebastian,” that detective began emailing and texting with Tichelman, hoping for a rendezvous.
“Eventually, we convinced her to come down and meet with us for an agreed-upon … arrangement for sex, for prostitution, and for a sum of money,” said Clark.
“Police said … they deposited some money — several hundred dollars into her bank account with a promise of … at least $1,000 upon arrival and everything else,” Baxter explained.
“This did not appear to you that this was the first time she had negotiated such a situation?” Maher asked Clark.
“No. In fact … she kinda called us out, called us a cheapskate. Told us that, you know, many of her clients pay twice that,” he replied.
Eight months after the death of Forrest Hayes, Alix Tichelman once again showed up in Santa Cruz County, this time at a secluded resort. Once again, she came with heroin in her bag expecting to hook up with the Sugar Daddy from SeekingArrangement. And once again, it did not go as planned.
“When you said, ‘We’re the cops. And we’re the ones you’ve been communicating with,’ what was her reaction?” Maher asked Clark.
“Oh, she — she cried,” he replied. “…that’s when we saw panic.”
Alix Tichelman booking photo
Santa Cruz Police Dept.
Alix Tichelman, 26, was stunned. Police arrested her for prostitution and charged her in the death of Forrest Hayes.
“…this was a crime. This wasn’t just some accident gone awry,” Clark said.
Or was it? What happened that night, says Tichelman’s defenders, is a lot more complicated.
WHO IS ALIX TICHELMAN?
Perhaps no one was more surprised by the arrest of AlixTichelman than Chad Cornell. The construction worker with a passion for writing and playing music was in love with her.
“For me, I mean, she was somebody completely different,” Cornell told Maureen Maher. “When I first saw her, I couldn’t help but to say something … She has a very darker style. And I always thought she was really beautiful. And almost like, you know, the Angelina Jolie kinda look.”
Alix Tichelman and Chad Cornell
Cornell had no idea how dark her life really was.
“Did you believe she was falling in love with you?” Maher asked Cornell.
“I did,” he replied.
Cornell thought his girlfriend was a model — there were countless images, a swimsuit commercial, and a makeup tutorial she did online.
And as far as he could tell, she was always answering modeling calls.
“She’d get all dolled up and go to a photo shoot,” Cornell said. “…she’d usually make about $1,000 or so when she’d go out to these modeling shoots.”
So imagine how he felt to learn months later that his beloved girlfriend was now being accused of doing something altogether different for all that money.
“I got a text with the news link on it … and kind just fell over on the couch in shock,” Cornell said.
The woman he once thought he’d spend the rest of his life with was now not only charged with prostitution — but also in the death of Google executive Forrest Hayes.
“What are you thinking? This is a woman you were in love with,” Maher commented.
“Yeah, I mean obviously, I was devastated you know. I turned white,” said Cornell.
As the news sank in, to his complete amazement, Cornell realized that just hours before Alix Tichelman met up with Forrest Hayes on that fateful night, she was with him.
“We were hanging out that day actually. She told me that some of her long-time high school friends were in Santa Cruz, and had a boat and she had planned to go hang out with them,” he explained. “Later that night, she actually woke me outta bed with a phone call. She’s you know really frantic on the phone. She sounded very upset.”
“What was she talking about?” Maher asked.
“She talked about how her friends had started doing heroin and a bunch of hardcore drugs on the boat and made her uncomfortable. And that she had to leave,” Cornell replied.
“But you believed on that call that she sounded genuinely upset?” Maher asked.
“Crying, sniffling. I mean upset upset,” said Cornell.
Because the truth, he now knows, was much worse. And it’s left him wondering whether he ever really knew who Alix was.
“Who is Alix Tichelman, right? Who is she?” said reporter Michael Daly.
Daly did what police investigators did, and using the tools of Hayes’ employer, he ‘Googled’ her.
“This, the police discovered, was Alix Tichelman’s Twitter account,” he explained, navigating through the profile AKKennedyxx.
“One x short of triple x,” Daly said of her Twitter handle. ‘Baddest bitch, model, stylist, hustler, exotic dancer.’ Those are her words. These are the pictures to go with the words.”
“This has the charming inscription, ‘To death do us part,” Daly said of a photo Tichelman showing off a tattoo on her arm that was posted to the account. “You might start believing less in coincidence on seeing that.”
But to Daly, Tichelman’s postings looked more like someone trying to create an image rather than someone obsessed with killing. That’s because he came across this post:
“My beautiful mother and I out for lunch. *no makeup face*”
“I mean this is a young woman who wants to be with mom,” Daly commented of the tweet, which included a photo of Tichelman and her mother smiling.
Tichelman posted it just months before her arrest for Forrest’s death
“It makes you think there’s a fuller story,” said Daly.
So how did it come to this? Childhood pictures show a cute blonde tomboy who appeared to have all the advantages in life growing up with her sister, Monica, who would become an investment counselor, her mother, Leslie Ann, and her father, Bart, a CEO for a technology company and a pretty good poker player.
“And he at one point found himself playing with some of the best poker players in the world and he won like $400,000,” said Daly.
Alix Tichelman spent her early teens in an Atlanta suburb where she played sports and won writing awards.
“Her friends say that she’s very smart, very deep,” said Daly.
But also very troubled.
“Her experiences with boys were not always happy ones,” Daly explained. “She had eating disorders … she was taking drugs.”
Desperate, her parents went looking for help and located a school that they thought would give her special attention.
“So they found this place called the Hyde School in Maine,” Daly continued.
Megan was also a student at the Hyde School, where Tichelman spent a few months.
“I can feel, like, pressure in my chest. It’s nerve-wracking,” she said driving to the school.
Megan asked “48 Hours” not to use her last name, but agreed to travel back to the Hyde School campus.
“I want people to see this very pivotal part of her life, that I feel, probably affected her at a very … huge point in her development … and why she is who she is,” she said.
“Do you remember when you first met Alix, do you happen to remember the very first time you saw her?” Maher asked.
“One-hundred percent,” Megan said. “She was gorgeous and she was very awkward.”
The cute blonde girl next door was long gone.
“She barely ate. She was very skinny. She was rail-thin,” Megan said. “She was emotionally kind of closed off.”
“I think the big question then is why? What had happened to her?” Maher asked.
“I don’t know the truth to that. She never told me there was a specific catalyst,” Megan replied.
But Megan says Alix Tichelman did hint at some traumatic events.
“We talked about … the fact that we had issues trusting men,” she said. “We had become numb to a lot of things.”
Tichelman had started cutting herself. A photo of Alix in her then-bunkmate’s scrapbook reads “psycho roomie” and “look at the cuts on her arm.”
“Alix Tichelman was actually the first person that I met who did that,” said Ashley Kent, who lived in Tichelman’s dorm. “She came to the school with the scars. She had already etched things into her arm, and she had already made this … image of herself as this like devil person … that’s how she dressed, kind of like a devil worshipper.”
But was that really who Alix was?
“She was actually a really nice girl. It was very much like a front that she putting on, an image,” said Kent.
Megan noticed it, too.
“Once you bypass those walls, she was just a normal girl who was scared,” she noted.
“And what was she scared of?” Maher asked.
“I think herself, honestly. I mean we didn’t know who we were. We had resorted to things that not every person chooses. We had been in trouble.
And at Hyde, it seemed like Tichelman was always in trouble. Megan says they punished her.
“You’re forced to do manual labor, physical labor. They basically tell you what you can and can’t do,” Megan explained.
Megan says she and Alix were forced to build a road.
“We hoed it, each person, and we weeded it. And then they made us cart like wheelbarrows — like huge wheelbarrows full of rocks up and spread ’em, so we basically built a dirt road on campus,” she said.
Ashley Kent remembers one night waking up to Alix screaming. What happened sounds like a scene out of a Stephen King movie.
“She like kinda walked down the halls and like was cutting herself really late at night,” she said.
“She began just to hurt herself because she felt that’s what she deserved,” said Megan.
When it didn’t work out at Hyde, Tichelman’s parents tried other schools. But the worse was still to come.
“Well, she talked about taking heroin when she was in her teens,” said Daly.
And by her early 20s, Tichelman was living in San Francisco, working strip clubs like Larry Flint’s Hustler, and then a place called the Condor. Eventually, she found her way back home to Atlanta, where her life would take a dramatic turn.
“This kinda great thing happens. She meets a guy named Dean,” said Daly.
Alix Tichelman and Dean Riopelle
Dean Riopelle was much older but so in love with Alix Tichelman he wanted to marry her.
“So maybe there’s gonna be a happy ending anyway,” Daly commented.
Then, in September of 2013, two months before Forrest Hayes died, Tichelman’s fiancé, Dean Riopelle, died with heroin in his system:
911 Call: Um, I don’t know I think my boyfriend overdosed or something like he … he won’t respond, and he’s just laying on the ground. Oh no.
Was it an unfortunate coincidence? Or something more sinister?
ANOTHER HEROIN DEATH
The Masquerade — it’s one of the hottest concert venues in Atlanta, Georgia, and it all belonged to 53-year-old Dean Riopelle, a former cross dressing singer for the rock band the “Impotent Sea Snakes.”
In September of 2013, Riopelle died of a heroin overdose. His girlfriend at the time: Alix Tichelman.
Tichelman called 911 after she says she discovered Riopelle unconscious in his North Atlanta home. That was just two months before she was with Google exec Forrest Hayes when he died.
“We were surprised the similarities in their case to our case,” said Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark.
Based on Tichelman’s arrest in Santa Cruz for the death of Forrest Hayes, police in Milton, Georgia, are now taking a second look at Riopelle’s death. What was first ruled an accidental overdose might very well become a criminal matter.
One person who believes Tichelman should be held responsible for Riopelle’s death is his former employee, Khristina Brucker.
“I think she had something to do with his death, I really do,” said Brucker.
For a few months in 2012, Brucker, an aspiring model, lived in Riopelle’s house, taking care of his children from his previous marriage and his pet hobby: raising dozens of monkeys.
“He said he had a dream about monkeys one day and he just started collecting them. He had the money. So why not?” Brucker told Maureen Maher.
Riopelle told an Atlanta TV station he had hopes of turning his property into a zoo.
“Anybody would spend 20 minutes or an hour with one would see they have a little bit more personality than most other animals,” he said.
But Brucker says his real passion was the woman also featured in that news story, Riopelle’s live-in girlfriend, Alix Tichelman.
“Oh, he loved her. He absolutely loved her. He wanted to marry her and she wanted to marry him, too,” said Brucker.
Dean Riopelle loved everything about Alix Tichelman — except the drugs. By the time Tichelman hooked up with Riopelle, she was a full blown heroin addict. Brucker says Riopelle didn’t share Tichelman’s bad habits.
“Did you ever see him drink?” Maher asked.
“Never,” Brucker replied.
“Do drugs?” Maher pressed.
“Not once,” said Brucker.
Brucker stopped working for Riopelle almost a year before he died. Still, she’s sure he would never inject himself with heroin. But she wonders if Alix Tichelman might have.
“Do you think that’s what happened?” Maher asked Brucker.
“I think it’s possible, especially with the case in Santa Cruz where she actually did that,” she replied.
“The idea that she’s going around randomly sticking people with heroin needles is preposterous. These are grown men. They know exactly what they’re doing,” said Todd, an Atlanta businessman.
Todd asked “48 Hours” not to use his last name, but says, as a close friend of Alix Tichelman, he could no longer keep quiet about what he knows about the couple.
“She was devastated after Dean passed away,” he said.
Todd says, not only did Riopelle drink — he drank a lot.
“But she loved him and he loved her. If he were alive today, he would be the first one to bail her out of jail,” he said. “And he would be absolutely mortified at how the people around him … have treated her.”
And Todd says Riopelle was determined to get Tichelman off heroin. He sent her to rehab and even bought her an engagement ring. He texted Todd.
“This is August 30th of 2013 … he was getting Alix a wedding ring. They were going to get married,” Todd said of the text.
That’s just three weeks before Dean Riopelle would overdose.
“She gets her ring, she picked it out today. We drug test every week. If she can stay clean for 14 months we will get married Halloween night 2014…” Todd said, reading aloud one of the text messages that have never been made public. He showed them exclusively to “48 Hours.”
“Alix says this is the first time in 10 years she has gotten out of detox or rehab and lasted a whole week before shooting up again,” Todd said, reading another text.
But Tichelman didn’t stay clean for long. On Sept. 7, 2013, just 10 days before his fatal overdose, Dean Riopelle made a shocking discovery: Alix was online, advertising herself to men.
“She hated that she was compelled to do it because she had this addiction,” Todd said. “There were guys who wanted to rent her penthouse apartments … men with a lot of power and a lot of status. …But she wasn’t interested in anything except getting the money to support her habit. She loved Dean, she wanted to be with Dean, but she had this deep dark secret.”
And, Todd says, when Riopelle found out, he flipped out.
“He said, ‘Can I move all of the prostitute’s s— into your place tomorrow … She is better over there and I would like to bring her stuff to you today so I don’t have to see the whore again,'” Todd said, reading Riopelle’s text.
But Riopelle didn’t kick Tichelman out. Instead, Todd says, he hit the bottle — hard.
“Once he discovered the ad things began to fall apart. Dean desperately loved her. Dean wanted to keep her. But he couldn’t figure out how to reconcile all of this,” said Todd.
So, Todd believes, Riopelle tried something new.
Tichelman would later tell police she was in the bathroom when she heard what sounded like a crash. She went to the bedroom and found Riopelle on the floor.
An autopsy would show he had a fatal mix of heroin, pain killers and alcohol in his system.
“I’m convinced that what happened was Dean was trying to reach a connection with Alix on a deeper level. And he thought that if they could share this thing, this thing she was so attached to, that she couldn’t let go of no matter what, that they could actually be together. And that’s what he wanted more than anything in life,” said Todd.
Following Riopelle’s death, Tichelman sent text messages to Todd: “Gd why did dean have to die?”
In the texts she writes that her mother is coming and will move her to California to the family’s new home two hours outside San Francisco. But Tichelman is trying to detox and tells Todd she is worried:
“I know that city well, like the Tenderloin where I used to live is the third biggest open drug market in the U.S. It takes two minutes to score and you don’t have to know anyone. You can see why I’m worried,” Todd said, reading the text aloud.
Around Oct. 30, 2013, Alix Tichelman arrived in California. She immediately went back online and started advertising herself. Texting Todd: “Guys out here got mad money.”
And within days she had a prospect. She was about to come into serious cash.
“This is on the second of November and she says an ‘amazing guy’ found her…’He is the real deal.’ Tomorrow she’s going on his boat and for a few hours he’s giving her $400 to $500 cash. Then a check for $2,000,” Todd said of another text. “Now, I’m relatively certain that the guy on the boat she’s referring to was Forrest.”
Three weeks later, on Nov. 22, Alix Tichelman was definitely with Forrest Hayes on his boat, where Todd believes she was simply making money to feed her addiction.
“Tell me one thing that happened on that yacht that was not absolutely consensual between two adults,” Todd said. “Nothing.”
On May 19, 2015, Alix Tichelman is back in court to have a date set for her trial.
She’s been in jail for almost a year – her past modeling life a distant memory. Tichelman faces almost 20 years behind bars, charged in the killing of Forrest Hayes, along with drug possession and prostitution.
Her public defenders, Jerry Christensen and Larry Biggam, have insisted she is not a cold-blooded killer.
“Alix Tichelman did nothing that Mr. Hayes didn’t want her to do. Two adults engaged in mutual and cooperative drug usage. And it went wrong. But it was an accident,” Biggam told reporters.
Defense lawyers say Hayes was an eager participant that night, even using his own cell phone light to show Tichelman where to inject him. And they are adamant she then simply panicked.
“This video will show that it’s an accident. Everything about this video indicates accident and panic, everything about it,” Christensen told reporters.
For months they’ve investigated Forrest Hayes’ past, asking prosecutors to hand over video from the “Escape’s” cameras as far back as six months before he died.
“We have some indications from other material that there may have been previous encounters on the boat. It would be highly relevant in regard to whether or not there is– drug usage along with sex,” Christensen told reporters.
But at the hearing comes a bombshell. With her parents watching, Alix Tichelman pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Judge: Do you understand that when you plead no contest or guilty you’re getting two felonies and five misdemeanors?
Alix Tichelman: Yes
Alix Tichelman in court on May 19, 2015.
And through her lawyer, she apologizes to the Hayes family: “It was accident and panic and she’s so, so sorry for it.”
Tichelman was sentenced to six years in a local jail, but with credit for her time served and a reduction by the judge, she’ll likely serve just a little over two years.
After the hearing, there was another stunning development. Prosecutor Rafael Vasquez says the family of Forrest Hayes told him they never wanted Alix Tichelman charged.
“The family did not want this case to be filed, they would have been very happy if this case had been dismissed,” Vasquez explained. “They were terrified about the prospect of this case going to trial.”
The family, he said, did not want that video from Hayes’ boat to ever be made public.
“I can only imagine what further pain, what further humiliation they would endure if that video was released out into the public,” said Vasquez.
What’s more, he says Alix was never a cold-blooded killer, as described by law enforcement.
“That was never depicted in that surveillance video,” said Vasquez.
In fact, the prosecutor agrees with the defense attorneys that Alix was anything but callous when Forrest collapsed.
“And the fact that she made some effort to wake him up, hit him in the chest, smack him in the face, holding him up trying to lift him up, then holding him, hugging him at one point, and then you can see her crying in one instance, and then yelling for him to wake up in one instance — that clearly showed somebody who appeared concerned at that time. And that is certainly inconsistent with somebody who acted with an obvious intent to kill,” he explained.
But, the prosecutor says, what she is guilty of is not doing enough.
“She was the only one who could have rendered help and she neglected to do so, she failed to do so and instead took liberties to destroy evidence and to make her getaway while leaving the man there to die,” said Vasquez.
In the end, one of Tichelman’s attorneys, Athena Reis, says her time in jail has been helping turn Alix’s life around.
“You know, she’s clean and sober. She’s closer with her family than ever, and I think she’s really used this time to reflect,” said Reis.
But for Forrest Hayes’ family , there is no turning around. And they’ll try to put the scars of his actions behind them.
“From this point on, the family no longer has to worry about the concern associated with all the scrutiny, all the ridicule and all the scorn generated by all the media attention in this case,” Vasquez said. “This family has been through a lot.”
Alix Tichelman is scheduled to be released from jail in June 2017. She will be 29 years old
The Dean Riopelle case is still open and under investigation.
Produced by Allen Alter and Patti Aronofsky, Elena Difiore, Greg Fisher, Michelle Feuer, Douglas Longhini, Michelle Fanucci and Michael McHugh
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