An alleged high-priced call girl accused of killing a Google executive with a lethal dose of heroin and then fleeing his yacht has pleaded not guilty.
A lawyer for Alix Tichelman, 26, said she and the executive, 51-year-old Forrest Hayes, were taking drugs together consensually, adding that his client had no intent whatsoever of harming Hayes.
“To demonise and sensationalise and totally blame Alix Tichelman for his death is … unfair and simply wrong,” Larry Biggam told reporters outside court on Wednesday.
Tichelman appeared in court in Santa Cruz, California, a week after being charged with manslaughter, prostitution, destroying evidence and transporting a controlled substance.
She was arrested on July 4 by Santa Cruz police, who identified her as the woman in a surveillance video on the yacht where Hayes was found dead of an overdose in November.
The video shows Hayes suffering “medical complications” and passing out after being injected by Tichelman – and then shows her leaving the scene, instead of administering first aid or calling for an ambulance, police said.
Tichelman stepped over Hayes at one point to finish a glass of wine, according to investigators, who added that she lowered window blinds to hide the man from view.
His body was found the next morning.
Tichelman’s lawyer called the case “extremely sad”, noting that Hayes was a father of five.
But he added: “There was no intent to harm or injure, much less kill Mr Hayes.
“Why would she? He was a lucrative source of income to her; she appreciated his generosity and she had a motive, if any, to elongate, not end, the relationship,” he added.
“This case is about two adults who were engaged in mutual consensual drug usage in the context of a sexual encounter initiated and encouraged by Mr Hayes,” Biggam told reporters.
And he added: “At the end of the day, all the speculation and the sensation and the hype is not evidence. We’re confident it’s clearly not a murder case.”
The judge denied Tichelman’s request for her $US1.5 million ($A1.62 million) bail to be reduced, and she was ordered to remain in custody.
Tichelman was arrested after being lured to an upscale hotel by investigators under the pretence of meeting a rich man willing to pay well for sex, according to court documents.
Tichelman used a website called “Seeking Arrangement” to connect with men and boasted of having more than 200 clients, investigators said.
Hayes reportedly met Tichelman through the website, which promises that a “sugar daddy” can use it to find “sugar babies” for “upfront and honest arrangements with someone who will cater to your needs”.
An obituary in the local newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, said Hayes had worked at Silicon Valley tech firms Sun Microsystems and Apple before taking a position at Google.
Hayes was described as a family man inclined towards humour and impulsive purchases.
Following the Hayes case, police have reopened an investigation into the death of Tichelman’s then-boyfriend Dean Riopelle, who died last September in his home near Atlanta.
Riopelle, 53, died of a heroin overdose, in what was recorded as an accident, but detectives are now probing her role in his death.