SEATTLE – An insane killer who slipped away from the staff of a mental institution during a trip to a county fair was recaptured Sunday, three days after he escaped his monitors — and more than 180 miles away.
With a helicopter overhead and dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement officers swarming around Goldendale, 47-year-old Phillip Arnold Paul walked out to a highway in south-central Washington state just as search personnel arrived at the scene, Klickitat County Sheriff Rick McComas said.
"He came out of the brush, onto the roadway, as law enforcement officers were going by," McComas told The Associated Press. "His intent was to voluntarily give himself up because he knew we were going to find him."
But Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie D. Knezovich said Paul had just tried to thumb a ride from an area resident who alerted authorities, and seemed to be trying to remain on the loose.
Paul had told a friend in Spokane for months that he was going to be released from the Eastern State State, a mental institution. He went to the friend's house Thursday after escaping during the Spokane County Interstate Fair, Knezovich said in a release.
The friend gave Paul a guitar, a sleeping bag and a leather jacket and drove him out of town. It wasn't until Saturday that the friend learned of the escape. He then contacted detectives and showed them where he dropped off Paul.
Authorities used that information to narrow their search.
Knezovich said the detectives who apprehended Paul drove up to him in an undercover van, jumped out with guns drawn and ordered Paul to the ground.
"He stated he was 'done' and complied with their commands," he said. Knezovich added that Paul had a hand scythe — a long, curved blade attached to a handle — in his backpack but made no attempt to reach for it.
One of those involved in the arrest, Spokane County sheriff's Detective Roger W. Knight, also nabbed Paul after he gave Eastern State personnel the slip in 1991 during a field trip in Medical Lake, where the mental institution is located, Knezovich said. Following that arrest, Paul knocked Knight unconscious in the jail booking area and was convicted of first-degree escape and second-degree assault.
Paul was committed after he was diagnosed as schizophrenic and acquitted by reason of insanity in the slaying of an elderly woman in Sunnyside in 1987. He soaked her body in gasoline to throw off search dogs.
McComas said Paul would be taken to Yakima following a checkup by medics in Goldendale. He is expected to appear in Yakima County Superior Court on a warrant stemming from the initial murder case before being returned to Eastern State.
Susan N. Dreyfus, secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services, issued a statement praising those involved in the recapture.
"We are committed to finding out how and why this happened, why there was an unacceptable (two-hour) delay in notifying local law enforcement of his escape, and how potentially dangerous patients were brought to such a public venue with the reported staffing ratios," Dreyfus added.
Shortly after the escape, Dreyfus ordered a halt to all field trips for "forensic patients" — those committed for treatment as a result of criminal proceedings — at all three of the state's mental institutions.
By early Sunday, 50 to 60 federal, state and Spokane-area law enforcement personnel had been shifted from the Spokane area near the Idaho border to Goldendale, the Klickitat County seat, about 145 miles southeast of Seattle and 185 miles southwest of Spokane.
Knezovich expressed dismay that Paul aroused no suspicion when he left the mental institution with a backpack loaded with clothing, food, an electric guitar and $50 from a Social Security check.
"It appears that Mr. Paul had planned this for quite some time," he said.
The field trip to the fair, which included 30 other patients, is an annual event that Paul easily could have anticipated, Reagan said.
Jim Stevenson, a spokesman for the state Department of Social and Health Services, said Paul received an injection designed to maintain his mental stability for about two weeks on Wednesday. Only at the end of that period would he have needed another dose to avoid the potential for a serious deterioration of his mental condition, Stevenson said.