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Alix Tichelman and the Legal Prostitution Debate

Alix Tichelman, an illegal prostitute, was recently arrested on suspicion of murder after allegedly injecting a lethal dose of heroin into Google executive Forrest Timothy Hayes and callously leaving him to die on his yacht in Santa Cruz.

The horrific nature of this event, particularly the cold-blooded manner in which Tichelman acted (surveillance footage reveals she stepped over the dying body to finish her glass of wine before exiting the scene), makes for a grim water cooler conversation topic in workplaces throughout the nation.

At one of these workplaces, Sheri’s Ranch, the Tichelman story is a significant subject of discussion, mainly because the murder was committed by a prostitute and Sheri’s is a legal brothel in Nevada, where licensed prostitutes lawfully practice their controversial trade.

As the staff and courtesans muse about the death of Forrest Hayes, the discourse revolves around a central question.

Would Forrest Hayes be alive today if prostitution was legal across the United States?

Prostitution, in the form of rurally located brothels, has been legal in Nevada for over forty years. Servicing over 400,000 customers annually, these bawdy houses operate under strict state and county regulations to ensure the safety and health of prostitutes and clients. These regulations include the following:

  • All women working in Nevada bordellos must undergo an extensive background check conducted by the sheriff’s office in their county of employ.
  • Like all legal workplaces, Nevada bordellos are drug-free. No illegal substances, including heroin, are permitted on brothel property.
  • Brothels like Sheri’s Ranch, which are open 24 hours a day, have on-staff security working around the clock.

So if prostitution was legal in the Golden State as it is in the Silver State, where working girls are vetted by law enforcement, no illegal drugs are permitted, and security staff is ever-present, and Forrest Hayes visited a state-regulated brothel instead of engaging Alix Tichelman, would the Google executive be alive?


Forrest Hayes was a hard-working, accomplished man searching for a momentary, innocuous tryst. Like so many men who desire the company of sex workers, he hired an illegal prostitute because he had no legal option. Forrest Hayes’ brief encounter with Alix Tichelman was his last encounter.

The Hayes murder is currently shining a spotlight on the relationship between prostitution and the Silicon Valley tech industry. Perhaps the high-profile nature of this unfortunate event will spark broader discussion about legalizing and regulating sex work throughout the United States, using Nevada brothels as a model, so that sex workers and their clients can legitimately and safely practice the oldest profession.

Image:  Santa Cruz Police Department. AP Photo/Santa Cruz Police
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