Psychologist says psychiatrist William Ayres, charged with child molestation, faked dementia symptoms

October 30, 2012

REDWOOD CITY, CAlifornia  -- The psychologist who branded William Ayres a malingerer took the stand Monday to explain why he believes the accused child molester has been lying about his symptoms of dementia.

Napa State Hospital sent Ayres, 80, back to San Mateo County this summer after concluding the former child psychiatrist was fit to undergo a second criminal trial on charges of sexually abusing five young boys who were sent to him for treatment. Ayres' first criminal trial in 2009 ended in a hung jury.

John McIlnay, a forensic psychologist who specializes in sniffing out people who are faking mental problems to escape punishment, testified that Ayres exhibited abnormal swings between lucid and foggy states of mind. Ayres' results on assessments of his overall ability to function day-to-day also varied widely, said McIlnay. He also noted that there were discrepancies between how the patient acted in clinical settings and during down time.

"I don't believe that dementia can wax and wane to the degree that the behavioral observation and reports would suggest," said McIlnay, who combed through Ayres' records from before and after he was admitted to Napa in October 2011. He ultimately overruled several Napa clinicians who had diagnosed him with dementia.

Followed suggestion

One episode that caught McIlnay's eye involved the level of staffing during lunch at the psychiatric facility. Concerned about his safety, Ayres sought out the nursing supervisor of his unit to request that she increase the number of staff present at that time. When the supervisor, having noticed the same issue, followed Ayres' suggestion the next day, he sought her out to thank her.

That behavior contrasted sharply with some of Ayres' interactions with clinicians. In one competency test regarding the legal system, McIlnay said, Ayres was uncooperative and evasive, claiming he didn't know what a judge does.

Three Napa clinicians who testified Friday for the defense said it's normal for the symptoms of people with dementia to vary from day to day.

Many questions

Ayres' lead attorney, Jonathan McDougall, made the unusual decision Monday morning to testify as a witness regarding his client. McDougall described episodes of Ayres' forgetfulness and the difficulty he has had strategizing with a client who doesn't remember previous conversations.

When prosecutor Melissa McKowan asked about comments Ayres made at Napa indicating he believes he will be convicted if tried again, McDougall said Ayres misconstrued conversations the two men had regarding the case. McDougall said he'd told his client their chances of winning at trial would be worse if Ayres is not sharp enough to testify on his own behalf.

Prosecutors believe Ayres molested more than 30 boys, but most of the alleged victims fell outside the statute of limitations. After the 2009 mistrial, Ayres' family hired McDougall, who soon raised questions about his client's mental state. A trial on Ayres' competency ended in 2011 with a hung jury, and the District Attorney's Office conceded the defendant had dementia.

But McIlnay concluded Ayres was grossly exaggerating his cognitive problems. Now San Mateo County Superior Court Judge John Grandsaert is tasked with ruling on Ayres' fitness. The competency hearing will continue Tuesday with more direct examination of McIlnay, followed by cross-examination.

Source: Aaron Kinney, "Napa psychologist brands William Ayres, accused child molester, a malingerer," San Mateo County Times, October 29, 2012.


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