SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - A 26-year-old Folsom woman who police say is a high-end prostitute is now facing murder charges for a 51-year-old man found dead on his yacht in the Santa Cruz Harbor in November.
Alix Catherine Tichelman is accused of injecting Hayes with heroin and then sitting nearby drinking wine as he suffered a fatal overdose.
Tichelman was arrested Friday and booked into Santa Cruz County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder, concealing evidence and transportation of narcotics.
While investigating Hayes' death, detectives learned Tichelman had an ongoing prostitution relationship with Hayes. Tichelman is alleged to have been working as a high-priced prostitute, meeting her clients through a website called Seeking Arrangement.
Detectives obtained text messages and emails between Tichelman and her clients -- including the November 2013 victim. According to Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark, Tichelman met with the victim the night of his death and provided him with heroin -- which she injected him with. Hayes then died of a heroin overdose.
"We know they've had a previous relationship, they've shared time together before. This was all set up through text messages and emails. We also know what she did in the aftermath of this. We have her computer records, we know the Google searches that she made, the things she did to try to get herself out of this," Clark said.
Security footage from the yacht shows the victim suffering medical complications and going unconscious, Clark said. Rather than providing first aid or calling 911, Tichelman gathered her belongings, including the heroin.
"It showed our suspect, it showed our victim, it showed her injecting him with heroin, showed her absolute callousness, after the fact, as he starts to have medical complications. There was no effort to call 911," Clark said.
According to Clark, the video also shows Tichelman stepping over the victim's body several times as she is gathering her belongings. At one point, she steps over the body to finish a glass of wine. Eventually she is shown leaving the boat, stopping to lower a blind to conceal the body from outside view.
Detectives say they've also been looking at another case with similar circumstances in another state involving Tichelman.
Police detectives were concerned she might leave the area so the decision was made to make the arrest, even though the department's investigation is still ongoing. They lured her back to the Santa Cruz area by posing as a potential client, setting up a time and price and then meeting her at an agreed upon location.
Hayes was married with five children, according to his obituary, and worked for Google. He'd previously worked for Apple.
On her Facebook profile, Tichelman says she majored in journalism at Georgia State University and lists her current occupation as a makeup artist. In jail records, she listed her job as "model."
The website through which police allege Tichelman and Hayes connected, Seeking Arrangement, is described as being a site for connecting "sugar babies" with "sugar daddies and mommas." The company maintains it is not promoting or facilitating prostitution, though it and other similar sites have come under hot water in recent years from critics who argue its doing precisely that.
"Its unfortunate, we know these situations exist. You know there's a number of these websites, many of them will readily admit that they put these connections together. This particular website that she was using denies that they're a prostitution website. However we know she was using it rather prolifically," Clark said.