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A California prostitute charged with killing a Google executive with an overdose of heroin aboard his yacht pleaded guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter and administering drugs.
A Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge sentenced defendant Alix Tichelman to six years in prison, bringing a sudden and unexpected conclusion to a tawdry case that garnered national attention.
Tichelman injected Forrest Timothy Hayes with heroin in November 2013 then left without seeking help when he passed out on the yacht, authorities say. Hayes had hired Tichelman several times before, and they were doing drugs and having sex the night he died, authorities said.
Defense attorney Larry Biggam said Tichelman, 28, was relieved to have the court proceedings behind her, and she is expected to serve three years. She will be credited the year already served in jail.
"It was an accidental overdose between two consenting adults," Biggam said.
The high-end call girl was arrested eight months after Hayes' death. Santa Cruz police said a surveillance video at the Santa Cruz harbor showed the woman gather her belongings, casually step over Hayes' body, finish a glass of wine and lower a blind before leaving the yacht the night before the body was discovered.
The video also showed Tichelman panicking and attempting to revive Hayes as he slipped into unconsciousness before leaving the yacht, Santa Cruz Deputy District Attorney Rafael Vazquez said.
"There was an obvious reaction that showed she didn't intend to kill," Vazquez said.
The hearing Tuesday was scheduled to set additional proceedings, and Tichelman's plea surprised Vazquez.
Vazquez began by submitting a revised complaint specifying that Tichleman's manslaughter charge was to be involuntary rather than the more severe voluntary. Then Tichelman's attorney told the court his client intended to plead guilty to all counts.
Vazquez said the charges were filed over the objections of Hayes' family, who feared a public trial would further embarrass a wife and children traumatized by exposure of the Google executive's double life. Hayes was the father of five, and two of his children are in elementary school.
"They just wanted this to go away," the prosecutor said. "But we had a duty to pursue the case."
Vazquez said none of Hayes' family attended the hearing Tuesday, but an attorney representing them did. Christine McGuire, a Santa Cruz lawyer representing the family, didn't return a phone call after the hearing.
Tichelman had been preparing to move out of California when she was arrested, She has wealthy parents and dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada.
After Tichelman was charged in California, police in Milton, Georgia, took another look at the 2013 overdose death of Tichelman's former boyfriend Dean Riopelle, 53, the owner of a popular Atlanta music venue.
Authorities said a panicked Tichelman had called police, saying her boyfriend had overdosed on something and wouldn't respond. Police in Milton did not immediately return a call Tuesday seeking a possible update on the situation.
Tichelman has not been charged in that death. An autopsy report listed Riopelle's death as an accidental overdose of heroin, oxycodone and alcohol.