Video: Killer escapes during outing to fair

  1. Closed captioning of: Killer escapes during outing to fair

    >> story here. about a developing story out of spokane , washington. really disturbing. this known killer is on the looser in a spokane , washington. in 1987 , 1987 , phillip arnold paul slashed a woman's throat was acquitted by reason of insanity and was later committed to a mental institution . during a so-called field trip to the spokane county fair on wednesday, paul escaped and hasn't been seen since.

    >> there was a red wind breaker over a blue t-shirt, blue jeans and he is carrying a blue backpack.

    >> authorities say his escape wasn't reported for more than two hours, giving him a long head start on police who continue a widespread search. joining us on the phone from spokane , sergeant dave reagan . public information office we are the spokane county sheriff's office. thank you for joining us.

    >> you're welcome.

    >> let me ask you about this story. it is very disturbing. not only because there is this very dangerous man, this schizophrenic now on the loose, but i think it raises real questions about what was he doing, if he was insane, out at a county fair ?

    >> as i understand it, part of the process for determining who can be discharged from the hospital and who cannot, in other words, one of the treatment steps is to interject patient into public' vents. public affairs . and so the hospital, as indiana it, regularly makes these kinds of day trips out to public events.

    >> but sergeant, my understanding of this story is that he was put in a mental institution . he has escaped before. that he attacked a sheriff's deputy before. so why isn't this guy battleground kept under lock and key? instead, keeping battleground put in these situations and lo and behold, he escapes again.

    >> it is a tough question. we'll look at that next weak. rate now our focus is on recapturing him and getting him back in the hospital. we share those concerns. why were we not alerted before they showed up at the fairgrounds? why weren't the fair staff noticed? why did it take two hours for law enforcement to be notified after this guy disappeared? those are all very good questions and questions we hope to get answers to down the road. again our focus today is finding him, putting him back in the hospital.

    >> and sergeant reagan , you talk about bringing some of these people out to public events or public areas. some sort of rehabilitation. but honestly, a fair? a county fair ? you might as well bring him into a preschool. this is a family event. i can't believe it. it seem like there couldn't be a worst place to take someone like this.

    >> i can't disagree with that. i have no idea what their policies are. their procedures are for deciding had a goes and who does not go. we have inmate work crews that go to the county fairgrounds but they're dressed in red coverall and they're screen very carefully and judged to be very low risk offenders and they're monitored very closely. so again, we share those concerns. here is a convicted murderer out in a very public, very crowd oriented, very family oriented event and we knew nothing about it.

    >> all right. sergeant dave reagan . thank you so much.

    >> you're welcome.

    >> monica, we've hit on a lot of the key issues, but as you point out, this is a county fair . there are kids. a lot of kid at this and this guy is a convicted murderer? and has all these issues and he is allowed to rome free he is and cape? that's a shock.

    >> would you ever think you could be at a count fair and a guy like this could be right next to you? there are mom fired but that this. we appreciate sergeant reagan coming on. obviously he was not the decision maker there. it was nice for him to come

updated 9/18/2009 12:44:39 PM ET 2009-09-18T16:44:39

Authorities have put out a statewide alert for a mentally ill killer who escaped during a hospital field trip to a county fair, leading to fears that he'll become more unstable and potentially dangerous the longer he is on the loose with no medication.

Sgt. Dave Reagan of the Spokane County sheriff's office says Phillip Arnold Paul remained at large Friday and officials believe he's headed to Sunnyside, the town where his parents live. Reagan said anyone spotting him should call 911 and not try to confront him.

Paul was committed after he was acquitted by reason of insanity in the 1987 slaying of an elderly woman in Sunnyside. He soaked the woman's body in gasoline to throw off search dogs and buried the remains in her flower garden. He reportedly said voices in his head told him she was a witch.

He was caught trying to escape four years later, and later knocked a deputy unconscious in the booking area following his detention.

The 57-year-old Paul escaped Thursday during a supervised outing to the Spokane County Interstate Fair for patients from Eastern State Hospital. Thirty-one patients were on the trip with 11 staff members.

Local officials and fairgoers said they were stunned that mental patients, including at least one with a violent criminal past, would be taken to the fair.

"I think it's wrong, it's totally wrong," said Jennifer Craig, who was visiting the fair with her husband and grandchildren. "You're putting too many kids and old disabled people like me at risk."

Teams clear patients for field trips
Patients must be cleared by a treatment team of six to 12 clinicians, according to an extensive checklist before they can go on field trips to stores, parks, ball games, fairs and other sites, hospital spokesman Jim Stevenson said. They wear street clothing and need not all stay together, but staff members are required to keep each patient within eyesight at all times.

"They have gone to the county fair in past years," said Stevenson.

Hospital CEO Harold Wilson told The Spokesman-Review Paul had been "a fairly model patient."

The escape led state Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Susan Dreyfus to order an indefinite halt to all outings involving criminally committed patients at the state's three mental institutions.

Dreyfus also instructed Eastern State to review the policy on patient outings and a plan to prevent similar problems.

Lawmaker: Security 'inept'
"It's outrageous that security was so inept that a guy who's officially regarded as criminally insane was able to just slip away from the group," state Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane Valley told The Spokesman-Review.

In Paul's 1991 escape, he walked away from custody during a day trip was captured at the western Spokane County line. He attacked a sheriff's deputy in the jail booking area, knocking him unconscious and separating his shoulder, and was convicted of first-degree escape and second-degree assault.

Hospital officials told authorities that Paul hadn't exhibited violent behavior in years. They argued in the past that he should be released, but his petition for release was rejected in 2003.

He was described as 5-foot-8 and 207 pounds with brown hair and a goatee, was wearing blue jeans and a red windbreaker over a blue T-shirt.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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