Insane Killer Vanished During Field Trip to Fair; Who Let this Guy on the Ferris Wheel?

(AP Photo/Spokane County Sheriff)
Photo: 57-year-old Phillip Arnold Paul in a Spokane County Sheriff's Office mug shot.

SEATTLE (CBS/AP) While most people go to the county fair to look at local livestock, ride the Ferris wheel and eat cotton candy, insane killer Phillip Arnold Paul ended up there on a field trip from the local mental institution.

Committed to the Eastern State Hospital after he was diagnosed as schizophrenic and acquitted by reason of insanity in the 1987 slaying of an elderly woman in Washington State, Paul was allowed to leave the state hospital and mingle with fair-goers.

But Paul wasn't there to take in the demolition derby. Instead, the killer turned patient realized his golden opportunity and slipped away from the mental institution staff and went on the lam.

Apparently 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.

Shortly after the escape, Susan N. Dreyfus, secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services, 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.

The field trip to the fair, which included 30 other patients, is an annual event that Paul easily could have anticipated, officials 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.

Police got lucky, this time.

Paul was recaptured Sunday on the side of a highway 180 miles away from where he went missing.

With a helicopter overhead and dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement officers swarming around Goldendale, the 47-year-old 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 Knezovich said Paul had just tried to hitch 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 a mental institution. He went to the friend's house Thursday after escaping, 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.

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.

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.