Doctor Recalls Dispute in 'Doubtfire' Arson Case

  • by Seth Hemmelgarn
  • Sunday March 8, 2015
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The doctor who owns the house known for its role in the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire testified this week that he and the transgender woman accused of setting fire to the home had had a dispute over surgery he had performed.

Dr. Douglas Ousterhout, 79, said in a San Francisco Superior Court preliminary hearing Tuesday, March 3 that he'd performed facial feminization surgery on Tyqwon Eugene Welch, 26, last June. Welch, who paid about $45,000 for the operation, eventually wanted a refund, he said.

Welch, of Los Angeles, entered not guilty pleas in January to charges of attempted murder, two counts of burning an inhabited dwelling, possession of an incendiary device, criminal threats, and residential burglary, along with misdemeanor counts of trespassing and making annoying phone calls.

Ousterhout testified Tuesday that he'd been at his home, at 2640 Steiner Street, at about 12:25 p.m. January 5 when he heard something at the mailbox. He went to his door and saw Welch "with most of my mail in her hands." Ousterhout said he got the mail back from her, and started to re-enter the house when Welch "pushed me in and closed the door behind her." She asked for his checkbook but eventually left. (Ousterhout didn't say he gave her the checkbook.)

At about 8:15 p.m., said Ousterhout, he was making dinner when he smelled "the strong smell of gasoline" and saw that "the front door was glowing."

In August, after Mrs. Doubtfire star Robin Williams, 63, committed suicide, many people had left flowers and other memorials at the house, and Ousterhout said people had also left candles, but this glow "was more than that," he said.

He opened his front door to find the doormat on fire. He soon realized the door also was ablaze, but he eventually was able to extinguish the flames. His garage door was also burned during the incident. Ousterhout, who was home alone at the time of the fire, wasn't injured.

Ousterhout said he didn't see anyone around the front door or how the fire had started. A fire investigator testified earlier Tuesday she didn't know of any surveillance cameras in the area.

The doctor said he sold his practice in August to Dr. Jordan Deschamps-Braly.

The last time he had seen Welch before January 5 was in October, when she'd come to Deschamps-Braly's office to discuss revisions, said Ousterhout. At that meeting, a December surgery date was scheduled, after some dispute over costs.

But in November, after problems with Welch including her not signing a treatment agreement, Deschamps-Braly testified, he sent Welch a letter canceling the surgery.

Joni Miyagi, the office manager at Deschamps-Braly's office, said that at the October meeting, there had been "some volatility" with Welch, who became "very angry." Ousterhout had left the office before the meeting became hostile, Miyagi testified.

After that meeting, Welch had made numerous calls to the office saying she wanted her money back, among other things, said Miyagi.

Then, in a January 5 phone call about Ousterhout, she said, Welch told her, "I'm going to kill him and his kids."

Welch, who's been in custody since her arrest, appeared calm during Tuesday's hearing.

Outside the courtroom, Ousterhout declined to comment on the case.

After Tuesday's hearing, Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Hilton said that there's only "circumstantial" evidence in the case, and she questioned the credibility of Ousterhout and others who testified.

Hilton also said it had taken Welch "four whole years to save up the money" for the surgery, which resulted in "a crooked hairline, scars, and a dent in her chin," and her not getting a refund was "crooked."

The preliminary hearing is tentatively set to continue March 12. At the hearing's completion, Judge Brendan Conroy is expected to rule whether there's enough evidence to hold Welch for trial.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Clark is the prosecutor in the case.