William Turner. Photo: BPD

A 37-year-old man on probation for lewd conduct has been charged with a misdemeanor after a local mother said he exposed himself to her in South Berkeley in September.

The woman, who did not know the man previously, told police he showed her his genitals Sept. 21, and insisted they would have sex. Police responded, and the man initially was taken for a psychiatric evaluation. He was transferred to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin last week.

William Turner has been in and out of jail and psychiatric care this year after a series of bizarre interactions involving children in Berkeley. He was found guilty in August of lewd conduct in connection with one of those incidents. Turner served some time in jail, and was sentenced to three years of probation when he was released by Alameda County authorities. In mid-September, Berkeley police put out a community alert to warn the public about the “potential threat to children” posed by his release. Turner was detained in South Berkeley just three days after the alert went out.

According to court papers related to the Sept. 21 incident, Turner told a woman he was “horny” and planned to masturbate while thinking about her. He said repeatedly they should go into a nearby backyard to have sex, police said. Turner is now being held on $10,000 bail in connection with the indecent exposure charge. He is set for a pretrial hearing Oct. 13, according to court records online. If convicted in the new case, he would be required to register as a sex offender for life.

The August conviction stemmed from an incident in June when authorities said Turner tried to give a baby a mystery drink at Ohlone Park. Local authorities have also said Turner has an “unnatural focus on children.” His probation includes a stay-away order from all parks and schools in Alameda County.

Police have documented several other troubling incidents, too. In May, a witness told police Turner removed nearly all his clothes in front of a preschool before BPD was called to take him for a psychological evaluation. Several weeks later, there was the incident at the Ohlone Park tot lot where Turner reportedly tried to convince several children to drink from a bottle he claimed held water and honey. Then, at the end of June, police said Turner “stripped down to black underwear” and got on a playground swing at Ohlone Park after approaching children there and confessing to their mother that he had been sent to prison and “wrongfully accused for child molestation.”

Turner also faced allegations of stalking and trespassing involving an Oregon woman who did not know him but became the object of his affection, according to court papers.

Turner’s mother, Vera, wrote to Berkeleyside last week and said he does “have mental illness but when controlled with medication, he is able to function in an acceptable way.” She said he “experiences mania and severe depression. During mania episodes lewd behavior is often exhibited.”

She said Turner, who is not from California, has two daughters himself, as well as nephews he has cared for in the past.

“He is not now or ever been a child predator,” she wrote. “He has a heart of gold and is loved very much by his family.”

She continued: “His family has reached out several times with the Alameda County hospitals and courts to ask that he be court ordered to be on his medications.” That effort has not been successful. She said past violations have only included loitering, going to the bathroom in public and resisting arrest.

“To portray him [as] a child molester is wrong. Nothing could [be] further from the truth,” she wrote. “I am certainly not condoning him hanging around the parks. As a mother I would have called the police too. Because you can never be sure these days. But to continue on with all the news reports once he is released from jail and telling anyone who sees him to call the police as if he had escaped jail and not let go is irresponsible. He wasn’t convicted of hurting any child.”

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...