Randall Saito, who is considered extremely dangerous, was detained near Stockton after a cab driver tipped off officers, San Joaquin Sheriff spokesman Dave Konecny said.
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He was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail and us awaiting extradition to Honolulu, Konecny said.
Saito was committed to the Hawaii State Hospital outside Honolulu in 1981, two years after he was acquitted in the killing of Sandra Yamashiro.
The victim was shot and repeatedly stabbed before her body was found in her car at a mall.
Saito, 59, left the hospital on Sunday, took a taxi to a chartered plane bound for the island of Maui and then boarded another plane to San Jose, California, police said.
It wasn't immediately known how he was able to charter a plane. Police wouldn't provide details about his flight to California.
More than a dozen escapes have occurred over the past eight years at the hospital, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Many of the 17 escapes between 2010 and this year happened when a patient broke "curfew" and didn't return after being allowed to leave for a period of time, according to information obtained by the AP from police and the state Department of Health.
Andrew Blankstein is an investigative reporter for NBC News. He covers the Western United States, specializing in crime, courts and homeland security.
Alastair Jamieson is a London-based reporter, editor and homepage producer for NBC News.