Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018
 

Doubtfire arson defendant:
'I'm a good person'

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Tyqwon Eugene Welch. Photo: Courtesy Jeanette McSwain
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The transgender woman accused of setting fire to the house made famous in the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire said in a jailhouse interview last weekend, "I'm a good person."

"I didn't do any of that stuff," Tyqwon Eugene Welch told the Bay Area Reporter.

But there's enough evidence in the case to hold Welch, 26, for trial on most of the charges against her, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy ruled Thursday, March 12 after a two-day preliminary hearing.

Conroy held Welch, who's been in custody since shortly after two fires were set January 5 at the Mrs. Doubtfire house, at 2640 Steiner Street, to answer on charges of attempted murder, burning an inhabited dwelling, possession of an incendiary device, trespassing, and buying or receiving stolen property. Welch has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He dismissed counts of making criminal threats and annoying phone calls. Assistant District Attorney Andrew Clark had already dropped a burglary charge.

Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Hilton has said the evidence against Welch is "circumstantial." No one witnessed Welch at the house around the time of the fires, and there's no surveillance video showing her there, court testimony has indicated.

Conroy said the standard for holding someone at the preliminary hearing stage is "reasonable and probable cause," not "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Among the accusations Welch specifically denied in a Saturday, March 14 interview with the B.A.R. were starting the fires, and threatening or attempting to kill anyone. The interview was held at the San Francisco County jail facility in San Bruno. Hilton, who had declined the B.A.R.'s request to facilitate the interview, was not present.

The owner of the house, Dr. Douglas Ousterhout, 79, testified earlier this month that he and Welch had a dispute over the facial feminization surgery he performed on her in June 2014. Welch, who paid about $45,000 for the procedure, eventually wanted a refund, he said. That refund was denied.

At the preliminary hearing, Ousterhout testified that he'd been at his home 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.)

Ousterhout told the court that later that evening he was in his kitchen at about 8:15 p.m. when he smelled gasoline and saw "the front door was glowing." 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.

Welch said Saturday that she feels pre-judged because of her gender identity. She said when it comes to a doctor and an "ethnic" transgender person, "who are they going to believe?"

"They all worked together, so whatever they came up with between each other, that's what they spoke upon," said Welch of Ousterhout, who retired last year, and others associated with his former practice.

Welch said she'd had the surgery because there were "a couple things I wanted to change," although "I feel I already was beautiful."

"Dr. O. said he was the best doctor and convinced me to get further" surgical procedures than what she'd originally gone to him for, she said.

However, she said, "Nothing we discussed came out right."

Welch pointed out numerous places on her face with which she was dissatisfied.

She said before the surgery, she already had a rounded, feminine hairline, but Ousterhout said her hairline needed to be lowered. He ended up making it "more square" and "masculine," said Welch. Additionally, her hairline looks a little slanted.

Among her other complaints, Welch also pointed to problems with her lower face. She had a reporter feel a gap in her jawline, where bone is missing from what she said were Ousterhout's actions.

During the jail visit, she read from a letter she'd tried to give to Conroy. Her request was denied.

Written on yellow legal paper, the message says, "I feel everyone deserves a life and to be happy," and jail isn't the place for her.

Jeanette McSwain, 44, Welch's mother, said in a phone interview that her daughter is "a very compassionate, loving, caring, and unique individual."

McSwain, who lives in Moreno Valley, California and attended the preliminary hearing, said, "I always told her she was beautiful," and "she didn't need" the June surgery.

She said she's "shocked" by the charges against her daughter, and "I can't believe she would do something like that."

"That doesn't describe my child at all," said McSwain of the accusations.

Welch's bail is $750,000. Her next court date is March 19 for a hearing on electronic monitoring eligibility.






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