Undercover and on a mission, Marin residents Geri McDonough and Alice Vipiana had their hands in just about everything during the 1960-1970s. Of their years of digging up information for Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Edward Montgomery, the two never thought they’d witness the prosecution of one of their targets, Bay Area child psychiatrist and convicted pedophile William Ayres.
Ayres, 81, was sentenced to eight years in prison without the possibility of parole Aug. 26 after pleading no contest to eight felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 – all his former patients – between 1991 and 1996.
Ayers will also be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life as part of his sentence for pleading no contest.
“After years of digging and searching and you don’t succeed,” San Rafael resident Vipiana said, “today feels like it was all worth it.”
The case came to light when Victoria Balfour, a journalist and victim’s advocate, called the police. Balfour came out as a sex-abuse victim in an article; soon a man called her in New York and told her that Ayres had molested him when he was a child. The victim refused to tell police unless another victim came forward, so Balfour began hunting for the truth.
During her quest Balfour discovered that McDonough of Novato and Vipiana were investigating Ayres sex education curriculum, “Time of Your Life,” at Montgomery’s request. The two then lived in San Francisco.
“Ed [Montgomery] would just get a feeling for something,” McDonough said. “He thought Ayres was wacky and wanted to bring him down.”
Vipiana attended a meeting under a false name, equipped with a purse that recorded sound. Once inside she grabbed copies of the proposed curriculum, which she said were filled with obscene lessons, went to the ladies restroom and threw pages out the far window.
“I don’t even know who was on the other side,” she said. “But everything I threw out of that window ended up in Sacramento.”
The duo’s involvement in fighting San Francisco’s Prop. H, teacher’s sensitivity training and other school-related legislation, landed both their names in local papers, and later caught Balfour’s attention.
“When Victoria came [to San Mateo] she saw my name in an article,” McDonough said. “She called me and asked me questions.
“She delved into interviewing, digging and finding others,” McDonough said. “We gave her information about other people that had the same feelings about Ayres that we did. Once she was settled in San Mateo she embedded herself with the help of some wonderful women who wanted to help her find justice.”
Balfour made her first call to San Mateo police in 2002. Lengthy delays in the case resulted in the prosecution alleging that Ayres suffered from Alzheimer’s related-dementia. Everything changed in October when a judge ruled that Ayres faked his condition to avoid trial.
The District Attorney’s Office knows of 50 alleged victims of Ayres, some dating back to the 1960s, but many could not be presented due to the statute of limitations, an enactment in a common-law legal system that sets the maximum time after an event that legal proceedings based on that event may be initiated.
Balfour compiled a document of victims as her search continued. One victim, who will remain unnamed, was in prison for a felony and told a psychiatric nurse that he had been molested by Ayres during court-ordered sessions. The complaints were investigated by police and were assumed to be the first official allegations.
“A detective went to speak to the prisoner about Ayres in 2002,” Balfour wrote in the document. “When the prisoner heard Ayres’ name he had a violent reaction.”
Proceedings started in 2005 when police began their investigation. Prosecutors charged him two years later, and in 2009 the trial resulted in a hung jury. Prosecutors decided to retry the case but doctors confirmed that Ayres’ dementia was too severe.
But a forensic doctor noticed peculiar behavior while Ayres was a patient at Napa State Hospital, such as remembering people and information.
San Mateo County Superior Judge John Grandsaert ruled in 2011 that Ayres faked his symptoms, and was able to do so because of his knowledge of the mental healthcare system.
Ayres treated child patients from the 1960s to 2006, according to the district attorney’s office. He also evaluated hundreds of cases, including some involving sex offenders, in San Mateo County juvenile court as far back as the 1970s.
The man, who claimed innocence throughout the years-long proceedings, claimed that he touched boys for physical and genital exams as part of their treatment.
Judge Beth Labson Freeman listened as eight men took the stand Aug. 26 and faced their tormentor, a man that victims said digitally sodomized, touched and questioned them about sex. Many victims gave impact statements and thanked Balfour for her 11 years of hard work.
“I ask that this be declared Vicky B day,” said Thomas C. He went on to describe years of emotional hardship after being molested by Ayres as a young boy. He told his parents of the assault, but neither believed him and forced the sessions to continue. “I gave up on myself, my family and my life.
“I think the most horrible part of what you did was use you’re status to harm children,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “You look like a spider, a wolf spider, a captured spider. You don’t even know how many children were caught in your web . . . Now you’re going where all the other old wolf spiders go to die.”
Ayres, dressed in a red jail jumpsuit, was wheeled into the courtroom by bailiffs. Emotionless, Ayres never once looked up as victims approached his table and spoke.
Carl F. approached the bench, recalling the year 1976 when his parents sent him to Ayres, a man who was nominated for an award to help children and juveniles and co-authored “Practice Parameters for the Forensic Evaluation of Children and Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused,” which appeared in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 1997. Carl F. read its excerpts aloud Monday morning.
“Molesters develop these kinds of alliances to get away with their crimes,” said Carl before telling the court about his years of depression, suicidal thoughts and inability to be the best father he could be. “Sometimes I wake up and I wish I had quietly died in my sleep the night before.”
A victim’s mother also spoke, telling the court that her son told her about the molestation but she didn’t believe him.
“I saw an article in the [San Francisco] Chronicle [about Ayres] years later and I went up in flames,” she said. “My son died in an auto accident and I’ve lived with this guilt for years. I’d like to see justice served.”
A sister also told the story of her brother, an Ayres victim, who told her about the abuse just before fleeing from the car and jumping in front of a semi truck.
Nearing 4 p.m., and after Ayres’ children gave statements, Judge Freedman dished out an 8-year sentence.
“He will also have to pay restitution to the six victims in the case,” Vipiana said.
Contact Nicole Baptista at email@example.com.