A former well-known child psychiatrist convicted of molesting numerous underage patients over the course of a decadeslong career, died an elderly man while serving an eight-year prison sentence for his crimes.
William Hamilton Ayres, 84, died of natural causes in prison at the California Medical Facility April 20, according to the Solano County Coroner’s Office.
Despite his death being confirmed this week, a pending civil case filed in San Mateo County Superior Court by one of his victims is expected to continue against his remaining estate.
Ayres was convicted of molesting several male patients when they were ages 9 to 13 between 1988 and 1996. He was sentenced to prison in 2013 after two lengthy trials and a stint at the Napa State Hospital while he reportedly exaggerated having dementia.
Ayres was once renowned as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and as host of the sex education series “Time of Your Life.” Some of his clients were referred to him by local pediatricians, school districts and even the San Mateo County juvenile court system.
He was convicted on eight counts of felony child molestation but authorities believed he abused dozens of other patients whose cases fell outside the statute of limitations and couldn’t be prosecuted.
Officials involved in the case noted even with Ayres now dead, he’s left a trail of victims.
“When William Ayres pled guilty to his crimes in 2013, it marked the culmination of seven years of intensive work and investigation in coordination with the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office to bring his victims some sense of closure,” Jack Ratcliffe, San Mateo deputy police chief, said in a statement. “While this is the final chapter in that effort, our hearts and minds remain with the victims who found the courage to stand up to him and still live with the after effects of his crimes.”
San Mateo police first began investigating Ayres in 2002, during which he was still seeing patients. It wasn’t until 2007 that he was arrested on a $1.5 million warrant. He was out of custody on a variety of bail amounts throughout the years as two trials dragged on. The first ended in 2009 with a hung jury and prosecutors eventually agreed he could be committed to Napa State Hospital. But doctors concluded in 2012 that Ayres was faking or exaggerating his condition and criminal charges were reinstated.
A still pending civil lawsuit filed in 2007 by a former patient lists Ayres in the matter as “Dr. Doe” and had been put on hold while the criminal proceedings were underway. The case picked back up in 2015 after Ayres’ conviction and is scheduled for a case management conference May 23.
Regardless of Ayres’ death, that case is expected to proceed against the doctor’s estate, according to a letter sent to Superior Court Judge Steven Dylina by Ayres’ attorney.
The lawsuit alleges the victim, listed as Manuel Doe, was 10 years old when he began seeing Ayres, who sexually molested him at his San Mateo office.
The suit claims instead of helping the child, Ayres “developed his own agenda for treatment which constituted the meeting of his own personal sexual gratification and needs.”
Ayres’ civil attorney Constance Yu sent a letter to Dylina May 5 indicating her client had passed and would communicate with his widow to determine who would be a personal representative to his estate. Ayres’ wife and two adult children believed him innocent during the trial.
Neither the victim’s attorney nor Yu returned a request for comment, but she indicated in her letter the plaintiff is expected to proceed with the case.
In 2005, Ayres reportedly settled another civil suit a former patient filed against him. Police began investigating the doctor when that patient accused him of molestation during the 1970s when the victim was 13. After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the statute of limitations prevented criminal prosecution, the victim and Ayres reached a confidential settlement. The doctor reportedly admitted during a deposition that he conducted physical exams of patients as part of his care.
Ayres had been denied medical parole March 4. In 2013, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously rescinded a lifetime achievement award he had received nearly 11 years earlier.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said his office had yet to receive an official report from the prison, but hopes the victims will find some comfort in knowing that Ayres will never return.
“This is a man who committed horrific acts against innocent victims from a position of authority. He received his just punishment for what he did,” Wagstaffe said. “Now this chapter is closed, this entire book is closed, and now we can let this slip into history and let the victims move on.”
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106
NOTE TO READERS: This story has been changed to reflect that Ayres was a psychiatrist and to correct the date of his medical parole hearing.