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Woman Charged in Tech Exec's Death Linked to 2nd Death

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Georgia authorities are re-examining the 2013 heroin death of an Atlanta club owner dating the woman charged in the overdose death of a Google executive on a yacht in California, police said Thursday. Robert Handa reports. (Published Thursday, Jul 10, 2014)

    Georgia authorities are re-examining the 2013 heroin death of an Atlanta club owner who apparently once dated Alix Tichelman, the woman charged with manslaughter in the overdose death of a Google executive on a yacht in California, police said Thursday.

    Dean Riopelle, 53, died of a heroin overdose in September 2013 in Milton, Georgia, about two months before Google executive Forrest Hayes died of an overdose on his yacht in Santa Cruz Harbor.

    Tichelman, 26, whom police in California describe as a high-end prostitute, is currently being held on $1.5 million bail after appearing in court Wednesday in red lipstick, black eyeliner and red jail scrubs.

    GEORGIA CONNECTIONS

    Tichelman called 911 on Sept. 17 last year to report that Riopelle, her boyfriend, had overdosed, Milton police Capt. Shawn McCarty said Thursday. She told investigators that he had been drinking and using heroin throughout the day, and that she found him on the ground after she got out of the shower, McCarty said.

    Tichelman said she tried to revive Riopelle for about five minutes before she called 911, according to a police report. She told police that he had been having a rough time but did not believe he overdosed intentionally.

    Riopelle died a week later.

    "Both subjects in these cases died of heroin overdoses, so there's just several factors we want to look at to make sure that we didn't miss anything,'' McCarty said Thursday.

    Riopelle owned the Masquarade, a mid-sized Atlanta concert venue and nightclub known for hosting big-name concerts and a long-running goth/industrial dance night.

    Atlanta music site clatl.com reported Riopelle died of an apparent heart attack. It describes him as "a controversial figure" in the local community, often called the "Monkey Man," because he raised monkeys and other non-native wild animals on his property, even getting a permit to turn it into a kind of zoo.

    Tichelman's Twitter account has pictures of her "pet monkeys" from November 2012.

    Just before Riopelle's death, on Sept. 6, Tichelman had been arrested on a battery charge after he told police that she bit his hand during an argument.

    Riopelle had told police that Tichelman took pills before they went to a nightclub he owned in Atlanta, where he said she drank, dove off the stage and exposed her breasts. After they returned to his home, they fought. She scratched his face and threatened to hit herself in the face and tell police he had done it, Riopelle said at the time.

    In 2008, Tichelman attended Georgia State University for two semesters but never graduated.

    SIMILAR SITUATIONS

    Police in California have said that a surveillance camera captured the crime scene at the Santa Cruz Small Boat Harbor, including the “cold and callous” way they say Tichelman handled Hayes, stepping over his body to finish a glass of wine and leaving him alone to die on his 50-foot yacht "Escape."

    The captain of Hayes' yacht found him dead on the boat last November.

    Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Hayes, 51, had hired Tichelman before, and that their Nov. 23 encounter "was a mutually consensual encounter including the introduction of the heroin.''

    Clark said it appears this might not have been the first time she left someone in trouble without calling 911 or trying to help. 

    "There's a pattern of behavior here where she doesn't seek help when someone is in trouble,'' he said.

    Clark said Santa Cruz detectives will be collaborating with police in Milton, Georgia.

    “The bottom line is we both want the same thing,” Clark said. “We both want to understand the truth of what happened. We want to protect the victims and we want to ensure that the suspect is accountable.” 

    Clark said it's not clear if Hayes was a frequent drug user, and that in the video, it appears he needed Tichelman to help him shoot up. Clark described Tichelman as a high-end prostitute who charged $1,000 and lived three hours away in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom.

    He said she had other clients from Silicon Valley, home to about 50 billionaires and tens of thousands of millionaires.

    Tichelman was arrested on July 4 after police said a detective lured her back to the Santa Cruz area by posing as a potential client at an upscale resort.

    Clark revealed, when Tichelman was arrested in the police sting, she had a fully loaded needle with heroin in it.

    “It tells us she might have intended to do this again,” he said. “It tells us she might have thought this was going to occur in her date with our detective.”

    HIGH-TECH TIES

    According to police, Tichelman boasted she had more than 200 clients and met them through the "sugar daddy" site SeekingArrangement.com, which purports to connect wealthy men and women with attractive companions. Her clients included other Silicon Valley executives, Clark said.

    “We are shocked to learn of this tragedy and we would like to convey our deepest sympathies to Mr. Hayes’s family," SeekingArrangement.com said in a statement. "SeekingArrangement.com is a dating website. Our terms of use are clear: escorts and prostitutes are strictly prohibited. In this case, the suspect’s profile did not indicate that she was using the site inappropriately, or was a danger to any other member.”

    Tichelman's father, Bart Tichelman, also has ties to the tech industry. Folsom software firm SynapSense announced his hire as the firm's CEO in 2012. Neither the firm nor her father responded to immediate requests for comment, the Associated Press reported.

    Bart Tichelman has more than 30 years of experience in the technology and cleantech inductries, most recently with an Atlanta solar power project developer, according to SynapSense's site.

    It appears Bart Tichelman is an avid poker player, according to his tweets and a poker blog, which reported that he won more than $400,000 in cash in the 2008 World Series of Poker Grand Tunica.

    NBC Bay Area's Roberta Handa contributed to this report.