The prostitute accused of giving a fatal dose of heroin to a Google executive on his yacht in Santa Cruz pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to felony manslaughter and other drug-related charges, as a 911 call from an overdose of another boyfriend surfaced from Georgia.
Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann also denied to decrease Alix Tichelman's $1.5-million bail or release her on her own recognizance. Dressed in red, she stood next to her public defender, shackled at the wrists, looking down most of the time. Her next date is set for Oct. 20. She could face a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
After the brief hearing, her parents and sister held hands tightly and shunned reporters' requests for comment.
Outside court, another one of her defense attorneys, Larry Biggam, told reporters that Tichelman had no reason to kill 51-year-old Google executive Forrest Hayes, who lived in Santa Cruz with his family, considering how much money he paid her for sex. "He was a lucrative client, a generous man," Biggam said. "He encouraged this and it went awry. She had no intent to injure or harm him."
Biggam didn't deny that Tichelman was a prostitute and he admitted she has been using heroin since she was a teen.
Then Biggam called Tichelman a "wounded bird" who has been demonized by the media. "She's a sensitive kid with an addiction problem," he said.
Tichelman is facing eight charges in Santa Cruz County – including manslaughter, prostitution, destroying evidence and several related to administering and possessing heroin – in Hayes' overdose death. The father of five, who worked for Google at the time of his death, previously held positions at Sun Microsystems and Apple. He died Nov. 23, 2013 and Tichelman was arrested eight months later on July 4.
Tichelman was taken into custody after being lured back to Santa Cruz County in a prostitution sting. Detectives, posing as potential clients, lured her to an upscale location with a promise of an excess of $1,500. Clark said when she was arrested she had a fully loaded needle with heroin in it.
Santa Cruz police first arrested her in connection with second-degree murder, but prosecutors later officially charged her with manslaughter with great bodily injury.
Investigators said the 26-year-old woman made no effort to help Hayes, whom she met on the "sugar daddy" site called Seekingarrangement.com, and instead gathered her belongings and even gulped a glass of wine before leaving. Hayes’ body was found the next morning by the ship’s captain at the Santa Cruz harbor.
Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark said there is video of this heroin interaction, but this week declined to release it.
Hayes' death has prompted police in Milton to re-examine the case of 53-year-old Dean Riopelle, the owner of a popular nightclub owner, who died in September 2013 while Tichelman was with him near Atlanta last year.
On Sept. 6, 2013, police were called to Riopelle's home, (PDF) where Tichelman ended up being charged with battery and reporting a false crime. Tichelman had been drinking and did some "stage diving" at The Masquerade, the nightclub that Riopelle owned. She was baring her breasts, the police report stated, and Riopelle didn't like her behavior. They fought, and she bit him on the finger, causing a tear, the report stated.
Then, 11 days later, police went a second time to Riopelle's house in Alpharetta, Georgia. This time, because Tichelman had called 911 on Sept. 17, 2013 to report (PDF) that Riopelle had been on a "bender the last few days," drinking heavily and taking Roxycodone before he fell to the ground with a loud "crash," the report states. She then called for help.
The two 911 calls were released by Milton police and were obtained this week by NBC affiliate 11 Alive News in Atlanta.
"He won't respond. And he's just lying on the ground," Tichelman says on the call, adding that his breathing is not normal.
The dispatcher speaks calmly asking pertinent questions.
Tichelman eventually hangs up. The dispatcher immediately calls back and Tichelman tells her she's sure her boyfriend overdosed.
When the dispatcher asks if the overdose was intentional or accidental, Tichelman answers, "Definitely accidental, accidental."
For a second time, Tichelman hung up the phone. The 911 dispatcher calls back twice and each time the call goes to voicemail. Riopelle was taken to the hospital by ambulance where he later died.
Watch Alix Tichelman's parents and sister leave court in Santa Cruz on July 16, 2014.
NBC Bay Area's Shelby Hansen and Riya Bhattacharjee contributed to this report.