The Black Widow of Silicon Valley

The detectives from the Santa Cruz police department could see an unmistakable injection mark in the arm of the deceased Google executive.

But the detectives could see no drugs and no syringe on the yacht where 51-year-old Forrest Timothy Hayes had been found dead from a heroin overdose. What the detectives did see was a pair of wine glasses on a table. They also noted that somebody appeared to have straightened up the cabin.

“There was another person in the room, obviously,” Deputy Chief Steve Clark of the Santa Cruz Police later said. “That’s Detective 101.”

The body had been discovered on the floor of the main cabin by the captain, who had been retained by Hayes after he purchased the 50-foot powerboat. Hayes had started out as an automotive executive in his native Michigan, which was in keeping with his decision to eschew eco-friendly sails such as were favored by other Silicon Valley types and buy a craft powered by big fuel guzzlers.

But he had come West to take increasingly senior positions with Sun Microsystems and then Apple and finally with Google X, the research and development division whose projects included the perfect one for a one-time car guy: the self-driving auto. Hayes had become enough of a techie that he had installed a wireless surveillance camera system on his yacht.

The captain tried to say all the cameras were functional except for the one in the cabin where the body was found.

“It happens to be the only one not working,” Clark says. “Detective 101 repeats itself.”

As befitted a true techie, Hayes’ camera system fed not onto some hard drive but directly into a cloud server. The detectives obtained a search warrant and discovered that the cabin camera had in fact recorded the entire scene with remarkable clarity.

“It’s really good quality video,” Clark notes.

They were chilled by what they saw.

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