IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Google Exec and the Model: Silicon Valley After Dark

The case of an alleged prostitute charged in the death of a Google executive has shined a light on the darker regions of the technology capital.
Get more newsLiveonNBC News Now

Dead men appear to play a big role in Alix Tichelman's life.

Tichelman, 26, was being held on $1.5 million bail by authorities in Santa Cruz County, California, on manslaughter, drug and prostitution charges in the death of Forrest Timothy Hayes, 51, a Google official who died of a heroin overdose on his 50-foot yacht in November.

Santa Cruz police told NBC News that Tichelman, who was arrested July 4, injected the heroin into Hayes and can be seen on the yacht's own security video calmly collecting her drugs and her needles, closing a blind to conceal the body from view, and leaving.

"She steps over the body, reaches over the table and finishes a glass of wine and then goes back about her business," Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark said.

Investigators initially accused Tichelman of murder for allegedly having provided and administered the deadly heroin, but in court Wednesday, she was charged only with manslaughter. She didn't enter a plea, and the hearing was continued until next Wednesday. NBC News couldn't reach her public defender for comment.

Related: Read the criminal charges against Alix Catherine Tichelman (PDF)

Santa Cruz police said it might not have been the first time Tichelman was there when a high-profile businessman suffered a fatal drug overdose. Detectives said they had discovered another case "with similar circumstances" involving Tichelman "in another state."

They gave no details, but NBC station WXIA of Atlanta and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution both quoted police in Milton, Ga., on Thursday as saying they were reviewing the overdose death in September, just two months earlier, of Dean Riopelle, 53, lead singer of the raunchy shock-rock band the Impotent Sea Snakes and owner of Atlanta's hip and trendy Masquerade Club.

Riopelle was Tichelman's boyfriend in a relationship that she chronicled on her professional Facebook page. She found him unconscious a week before he died in an Atlanta hospital, police said.

In an interview with fIXE, a fetish magazine, Tichelman — using her modeling name, AK Kennedy — said it was Riopelle who introduced her to the fetish and bondage world.

"Dean likes to take me out to clubs with me on a collar and leash. I love it. We both do," she said in the interview, which fIXE heavily promoted Wednesday after Tichelman's arrest was made public.

Milton police didn't return calls for comment, but Capt. Shawn McCarty told WXIA: "Both subjects in these cases died of heroin overdoses. We are going back making sure there was nothing we missed, no foul play involved."

"It's really nice to talk with someone about killing sprees and murdering people in cold blood...and they love it too."

Tichelman (pronounced TICKLE-man) may have advertised herself online as a fetish model, but police said she was, in fact, a high-end prostitute with more than 200 clients, many of them in California's money-drenched Silicon Valley.

Police said Tichelman arranged relationships on the website SeekingArrangement, where women can find wealthy men to pamper them. Hayes fit the picture of a Silicon Valley high flier: He was part of Google's highly secretive division responsible for robot cars and Google Glass.

Google wouldn't comment or say what he did there after he joined the company about a year ago from Apple, where he was listed as senior director of worldwide operations.

In a statement, SeekingArrangement said that "escorts and prostitutes are strictly prohibited" and that Tichelman's profile "did not indicate she was using the site inappropriately, or was a danger to any other member."

A personal Facebook page under her own name, Alix Catherine Tichelman, says she graduated in 2005 from Northview High School in Duluth, Georgia. After Riopelle's death, she next appears in California, where her parents live — they posted a sign on the door of their home saying they wouldn't speak to the media.

That's apparently how her clientele came to include a millionaire Google executive — not the sort of man you might expect to be into kink, satanism, weapons and death, all of them interests that Tichelman wrote about online.

"It's really nice to talk with someone about killing sprees and murdering people in cold blood...and they love it too," said a post on the Facebook account under her own name.

The page has since been removed, but not before NBC News and many other news organizations archived it. It includes pictures and comments Tichelman posted to her professional Facebook page and to her Twitter account, which identifies her as both Alix Tichelman and AK Kennedy.

The AK Kennedy page features several dark, death-tinged poems, like this one from 2012, titled "heroin":

Silicon Valley's high gloss often conceals a seamy stew of drugs, money, sex and death, said Cody Salfen, a private investigator who has worked on several high-profile cases in Silicon Valley's sleek environs.

Salfen recalled the case of Raveesh Kumra, the millionaire tech investor and winemaker who was found tied up and killed in a palatial Santa Clara County home in November 2012.

"I think there's a lot of that sort of thing, but it just flies under the radar."

Ravel Chanel Dixon, 22, was charged with prostitution, drug offenses and being an accessory after the fact to murder in the killing, which prosecutors say was committed by gang members.

Another prostitute, the star witness in the case, testified in May that she had been "servicing" Kumra for almost 20 years, saying he had at least two other children with other "girls."

"I think there's a lot of that sort of thing, but it just flies under the radar," Salfen said Thursday.

The case against Tichelman attracted wide attention because "there are pictures and just her general appearance," he said.

But "it's the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, and there's a lot that goes on when the sun sets that doesn't come to light," he said.