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Dr. George Tyndall, the longtime USC gynecologist whose alleged sexual misconduct toward a generation of alumnae shook the university and resulted in settlements of $1.1 billion, the largest such payout in higher education history, was found dead Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles.
Tyndall, 76, was discovered in bed in his Westlake condominium by a female friend who had been unable to reach him via telephone, according to his criminal defense lawyer, Leonard Levine.
Los Angeles police visited the scene and told the county medical examiner’s office that the death appeared to be from natural causes. No autopsy will be conducted, the medical examiner told The Times.
Tyndall was free on $1.3-million bail at the time of his death. He was set to stand trial next year in L.A. County Superior Court on sex crimes stemming from his treatment of 16 former patients, a subset of hundreds of women who had accused him of inappropriate touching, harassment and other misconduct during a tenure at the campus health clinic that stretched from the late 1980s to 2016.
Several of those women expressed dismay Thursday that his former patients would be denied their day in court.
"I feel very strongly that justice was denied for all of us," said Audry Nafziger, a sex crimes prosecutor in Ventura County who had accused Tyndall of inappropriately touching her and photographing her genitals while an undergraduate in 1992. “I wanted to see him convicted for what he did.”
Lucy Chi, a former patient who was to testify at Tyndall’s trial, said his death before jurors issued a verdict was yet another blow for her and other former patients.
“I'm so disappointed,” Chi said. “I've been afraid for five years, ever since the story came out, that we'd never see justice.”
Tyndall’s lawyer said his client had been looking forward to the trial since his arrest in 2019.
"From the very beginning, Dr. Tyndall had adamantly denied every one of the charges against him. All he ever wanted was his day in court, which he was confident would end in his complete exoneration," Levine said. "Now, neither he nor his accusers will get that, and that is very unfortunate for everyone involved."
Levine said he notified the court and expected to present a death certificate at the next hearing in the pending criminal case.
Tyndall’s troubled history at the campus clinic, where he was the sole full-time gynecologist for three decades, was exposed by The Times in 2018. Faculty, students and alumni were enraged that numerous complaints about inappropriate touching and creepy comments were downplayed and ignored, and university President C.L. Max Nikias was subsequently ousted as USC’s trustees committed to reform its organizational culture.
Former patients of Tyndall also deluged the university with lawsuits that laid out in graphic detail the experiences that women alleged they endured on his exam table. USC ultimately agreed to pay more than $1.1 billion in settlements and, after a petition from The Times, was forced to publicly disclose every complaint the university had received about the physician’s conduct.
After investigations by the Los Angeles Police Department and a criminal grand jury, Tyndall was arrested in June 2019. His case moved slowly. It was only in August — four years after the case began — that prosecutors concluded an initial presentation of evidence at a preliminary hearing and a judge ordered him to stand trial.
Other high-profile cases moved more rapidly. UCLA gynecologist James Heaps, who was charged with sex crimes a month before Tyndall, was convicted last year and sentenced in April.
Actor Danny Masterson, charged with rape in 2020, a year after Tyndall, was tried twice — a mistrial and a conviction — during the span of Tyndall’s preliminary hearing.
“From Day One, we've been saying this guy is old and this needs to happen,” said Allison Rowland, who saw Tyndall for gynecological exams in the 1990s and later received compensation from USC. Though she was not one of the 16 patients in the criminal case, she said she considered the trial a chance for justice vicariously.
“I'm getting so mad I can't speak,” Rowland said. “I was interviewed by the police in June 2018. They thought they had enough to prosecute then.”
John Manly, one of the lead lawyers in the civil cases, said: "He got away with it. Spent almost no days in jail. Caused untold suffering to hundreds, if not thousands, of students at USC. ... I'm at a loss to explain this to my clients.”
In response to criticism about the pace of prosecution, the district attorney’s office said that prosecutors shared the victims “deep disappointment and frustration.”
"Sadly, our system oftentimes moves at a slow pace, especially when the courts were forced to grind to a halt during an unprecedented global pandemic,” a statement through a spokeswoman said. “None of this will change the incredible harm that the victims have suffered. Our thoughts go out to them during this difficult time.”
USC declined to comment.
Tyndall spent most of his professional career at USC’s campus clinic, now known as Engemann Student Health Center. Though he was not a graduate of USC, he appeared to find his identity in his association with the university. When applying for a staff job in 1989, he told USC personnel, “My mission will be to do everything I can to help Trojan women avoid the many preventable catastrophes that I have seen,” according to a written account he provided to The Times.
His vanity license plate read "COEDDOC."
Tyndall , a native of upstate New York, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. A deployment to Manila sparked a lifelong love for the Philippines. He began medical school there and regularly returned for vacation, eventually marrying Daisy Patricio, from the southern island of Mindanao. She has returned there in recent years, although Levine, Tyndall’s defense lawyer, said that the couple were still married and that she survives him.
Dr. Jane Davis, who worked with Tyndall at the campus clinic and twice testified against him before a criminal grand jury, told The Times on Thursday that the abrupt end to the case was “very, very sad.”
“How many years has this been going on, and that it ended this way? It’s not unpredictable. He was 76 years old. He was not in the best of health,” said Davis, now an emeritus professor of family medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at USC. “It’s sad that there’s no resolution.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.