Alleged Folsom prostitute accused of homicide is linked to local tech industry

kminugh@sacbee.com July 9, 2014 

A Folsom woman described by police as a high-priced prostitute stands accused of injecting a Bay Area client with a fatal dose of heroin before stepping over his body, finishing off a glass of wine and fleeing with evidence.

In a case that quickly became an international media sensation, Alix Catherine Tichelman, 26, was arraigned in Santa Cruz Superior Court on Wednesday on eight felony and misdemeanor charges including manslaughter, prostitution, destruction of evidence and transportation of narcotics. She is being held in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

Tichelman was charged in connection with the November death of Forrest Hayes, 51, a Google Inc. executive who was found dead on his boat in the Santa Cruz harbor last fall. Santa Cruz police said in a news release that they are investigating her involvement in another person’s death “with similar circumstances” outside of California, though officials have not released further details about that case.

Tichelman is the daughter of Folsom technology executive Bart Tichelman, according to public records, an online profile and an obituary of her grandmother. Bart Tichelman is vice president of SynapSense, a Folsom company that creates “smart building” systems for controlling heating and cooling systems. A former Georgia resident, Bart Tichelman was SynapSense’s chief executive from 2012 until earlier this year, when the company was sold to Panduit Corp. of Tinley Park, Ill.

The Sacramento Bee was unable to reach Bart Tichelman or other relatives on Wednesday. SynapSense spokeswoman Patricia Nealon said the company is “aware of the situation” but wouldn’t comment on the arrest. In an upscale Folsom neighborhood, a note posted on the front door of a home listed in public records as owned by Bart Tichelman asked the media and other visitors for privacy.

Recent posts on Alix Tichelman’s Facebook page said she was heading back to Georgia, where she attended high school. Concerned she might leave California, a police detective lured her to Santa Cruz from Folsom by posing as potential client. Police said Tichelman agreed to meet at an upscale location, where she would be paid more than $1,000 for the rendezvous.

She was arrested upon arrival in Santa Cruz on July 4. Police first disclosed the arrest Tuesday.

Diana August, a public defender appointed to represent Tichelman, couldn’t be reached for comment.

The investigation began Nov. 23, when Hayes’ body was found aboard his boat in the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor.

Alix Tichelman became a suspect when detectives learned she had “an ongoing prostitution relationship” with Hayes, according to the Santa Cruz Police Department news release.

Police said Tichelman works as a high-priced prostitute who meets her clients through the website SeekingArrangements.com. Police said that during interviews with officers, Tichelman “boasted of more than 200 client relationships.”

The website calls itself the “leading Sugar Daddy dating site where over 3 million members fuel mutually beneficial relationships on their terms.” Officials with the website, which has offices in Las Vegas, Ukraine and Singapore, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Detectives, who say they obtained text messages and emails between Tichelman and clients, alleged that Tichelman provided heroin to Hayes and injected him during her visit.

According to police, security footage obtained from Hayes’ boat showed him suffering medical complications and losing consciousness. The video then showed Tichelman stepping over Hayes’ body several times as she gathered her belongings, including heroin and needles, police said.

“At one point, she steps over the body to finish a glass of wine,” the police news release said. “Finally, she leaves the boat and reaches back in to lower a blind and conceal the victim’s body from outside view.”

On her Facebook page, Tichelman, who appears to favors black lingerie and knee-high, lace-up Doc Martens boots, said she studied journalism at Georgia State University and worked at Ulta Beauty. That page, which also showed that she “liked” the Satanic Bible and recently was feeling suicidal, was taken down Wednesday. Her Twitter account lists her occupations as model, stylist, exotic dancer and hustler, among other things.

In a Facebook posting dated June 28, Tichelman wrote: “It’s really nice to talk with someone about killing sprees and murdering people in cold blood ... and they love it too. No judgment. Yay!”

She ended the post with “Take a look around you. Life is hard and then you die.”

Tichelman has no criminal history in Sacramento County, according to court records available online.

The victim worked at Google after stints at Apple and Sun Microsystems, according to a memorial website established after Hayes’ death. He worked on the Google Glass project and spent time at Google X, an innovation lab near company headquarters.

“He frequently talked about his family, it was the center of his life,” a former Apple co-worker, Mark Turnlund, wrote on the site.

“Forrest was in his element whenever the latest technical emergency arose,” Turnlund added. “He was incredibly disciplined, he would gather the right team together, and slowly plow through the details while everyone else was impatiently hopping around wanting to do something immediate.”

Mahesh Krishnaswamy, a former Google and Apple colleague, described Hayes on the website as a “caring and thoughtful” boss but also one to make decisions “fearlessly with conviction.” Upset with his 40-minute commute to Google, he bought a Volt electric car so he could use the carpool lane, Krishnaswamy wrote.

According to postings on the website, which has since been taken down, he is survived by his wife, Denise, and five children.

“Forrest will be remembered above all as a loving husband and father. More than anything else he enjoyed spending time with his family at home and on his boat,” his family wrote in an obituary submitted in January to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Call The Bee’s Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter @Kim_Minugh.

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