crimesider

​Who's to blame in Google exec's OD death?

Last Updated Jul 30, 2016 10:12 PM EDT

Editor's note: "48 Hours" consultant and Daily Beast reporter Michael Daly covered the case of Alix Tichelman,who pleaded guilty in May 2015 to prostitution and to involuntary manslaughter in a Google executive's heroin overdose death.

Forrest Hayes was 51 when he was found dead on his yacht in Santa Cruz, Calif., in November of 2013, after a meeting with Tichelman arranged through an upscale dating website.

The following commentary by Daly reflects his personal views. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of CBS News.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- The serendipity of smack could have just as easily made Alix Tichelman the one to overdose on Forrest Hayes' yacht. And in recent days, long after the story was filed, I have begun to wonder what would have happened to Forrest if he had been the one who did nothing to help while somebody died.

He certainly would have faced some tough questioning by the police. But he was a family man with a big job at Google and so much to lose.

I am not at all sure he would have ended up in jail charged with manslaughter, as Alix was.

In thinking back over the events aboard the yacht Escape, I have also wondered why Alix was the first to shoot up. I do not imagine that Forrest Hayes was being chivalrous, the way a gentleman might be on an elevator, insisting that ladies go first.

A gentleman would not have paid for sex with a woman who was around the age of his oldest daughter.

My guess is that Forrest was nervous and wanted Alix to show it was safe. Actually, she was lucky she went first. She might have found herself accused of murder if she had given him a fatal injection without initially subjecting herself to the same danger.

In the aftermath, Santa Cruz Police Chief Steve Clark told me that surveillance video from inside the yacht show Alix stepping over Forrest's body with a wine glass in her hand.

"Glacial," Clark called her.

WATCH: "48 Hours:" Kiss of Death and the Google Exec

Clark did not describe the extent to which Alix had first sought to revive Forrest. He also did not indicate that she stepped over him because that was the only way she could leave the cabin as she fled in a panic.

That news came from Alix after she changed her plea to guilty and received a sentence that will likely mean two years in jail beyond what she has already served while on remand.

Yes, Alix broke the law by working as a prostitute and by using and providing heroin. Forrest also broke the law by patronizing a prostitute and asking her to shoot him up. An image that keeps coming back to me is Forrest reportedly using the light of his cell phone to show Alix where to inject him.

As has been widely reported, Alix's boyfriend had also died of a heroin overdose some time before Forrest's death. In that case, she had called 911 and she had not been held criminally responsible for his death.

The same might have been true if she had just dialed those three numbers after Forrest's overdose. She had not even reached for a phone.

Yet, when I think of Alix still sitting behind bars, I cannot help but feel that holding her responsible for Forrest's death means giving him a pass for having created the situation in the first place.

He arranged for her to come to his yacht. He invited her to shoot him up. He did not die solely because of Alix's indifference. At the very least, he contributed to his own demise.

This story has become that rare one where the more I reported and the more I knew, the less sure I was about the essential questions of blame and accountability.

Ultimately, I think the answers reside not in forensics, but ethics.

And that makes it your call.

Journalist Michael Daly was featured in Tuesday's "48 Hours" investigation into the death of Forrest Hayes: "Kiss of Death and the Google exec."Watch the full episode online.