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"Violent psychopath" who escaped Hawaii psychiatric hospital captured in California

Psych hospital escapee captured

STOCKTON, Calif. -- A patient described as a "violent psychopath" who escaped Sunday from a Hawaii psychiatric hospital has been taken into custody in California after a manhunt, reports CBS San Francisco.

Randall Toshio Saito was arrested in Stockton Wednesday and is being taken to San Joaquin County jail, the station reports.

Honolulu police received a tip that Saito was on his way to a brother's home in Stockton, said Honolulu CrimeStoppers Sgt. Chris Kim. That tip was forwarded to authorities there, Kim said.

Kim said he received word that Saito had been arrested Wednesday.

Saito was acquitted of a 1979 murder by reason of insanity and committed to the Hawaii State Hospital outside Honolulu in 1981. Sunday, he reportedly took a taxi to a chartered plane in Honolulu bound for the island of Maui and then boarded another plane to San Jose, California, police said.

A staffer who didn't want to be named told CBS affiliate KGMB-TV he didn't know how Saito escaped, but said he was known for his manipulative behavior and suspected he had help.

Randall Saito CrimeStoppers/KGMB-TV

The state Department of Health operates the hospital, which houses over 300 patients in Kaneohe. It was not immediately clear under what circumstances Saito left the facility around 10 a.m. Sunday. Hospital staff called 911 to report his disappearance shortly after 7:30 p.m. -- two hours after he landed in San Jose, police said. An all-points bulletin was issued at 8:30 p.m. 

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Hawaii governor David Ige said the escape "never should have happened."

"I am deeply concerned such a dangerous person was able to escape from the Hawaii State Hospital and remain undetected for such a long period of time," Ige said. "Authorities and the public should have been notified much, much sooner."

Hawaii Director of Health Virginia Pressler attributed the escape to a "major breakdown" in procedures, policies and guidelines and said hospital staff may have "inadvertently or purposefully" neglected to properly notify supervisors and to supervise Saito.

"We don't know whether that was purposeful or not, we're investigating that," Pressler said.

Pressler said all hospital policies and procedures are being reviewed, off-campus patient visits have been suspended and staff are conducting random patient searches. Several staff members have been placed on unpaid leave amid the internal investigation and Ige said he has also asked attorney general David Chin to investigate.

Late Tuesday night, the attorney general's office charged Saito with felony escape. 

Chin said the escape appears to have been pre-meditated and planned and said he is investigating whether Saito had help, though he couldn't say whether the assistance came from inside or outside the hospital. He said his office has maintained that Saito doesn't suffer from mental health issues and they will aim to prove that in prosecuting him on the escape charge.

Surveillance video in the cab shows Saito had a backpack stuffed with items including a cell phone and portable charger, reports KGMB-TV. During the ride, Saito is seen texting on the phone, then rifling through the backpack.

Sources tell KGMB-TV Saito's ticket to California was purchased online and that he had paid for both his cab ride and his charter flight in cash, using an assumed name. After boarding a charter plane to Maui, he took a Hawaiian Airlines flight to San Jose, the station reports. 

Sandra Yamashiro, Saito's victim in the 1979 slaying, was shot and repeatedly stabbed before her body was found in her car at a mall. The victim was selected at random, authorities said at the time. After the murder, Saito was reportedly diagnosed with sexual sadism and necrophilia, or sexual attraction to corpses.

"Because he committed a murder, no matter how long ago it was, he still has ability or inherent ability to do another murder or violent crime," Wayne Tashima, a Honolulu prosecutor, told KGMB-TV.

In 1993, a court denied Saito's request for conditional release, saying he continued to suffer from sexual sadism and necrophilia.  

Defense attorneys again sought to have Saito released in 2000. But Jeff Albert, a deputy city prosecutor, objected, saying Saito "fills all the criteria of a classic serial killer."

"There is a serious lack of information for the public," said Nicholas Iwamoto, who was stabbed 18 times on a popular Hawaii hiking trail in 2009. His attacker was found legally insane and sent to Hawaii State Hospital. He was later granted conditional release to attend community college, a decision Iwamoto wasn't notified about.

"Public safety has certainly been compromised," Iwamoto said. "It's extremely alarming. But nothing from the state surprises me anymore."

Irving Tam, who has lived near the hospital in Kaneohe for about 30 years and was walking by the facility on Tuesday, said he worries about hospital patients getting out in his neighborhood.

"When they do escape, especially someone with this kind of a record, there is a high degree of concern, he could be violent and who knows," Tam said. "That's why I have a gun, for this very reason. Hopefully I never use it."

Tam said he heard about the escape from a neighbor, not the police, hospital or the media, and that patients have gotten out several times in the past.

"This is not totally uncommon, we have had similar incidents in the past, and fortunately nothing has ever happened," Tam said.

Tam thought that someone with a violent past like Saito should closely monitored. "It is disturbing that he was given that much freedom," he said. "You would think he would be under heavier security."

Saito was the impetus for a rule change in 2003, when the state attorney general's office decided mental patients committed to Hawaii State Hospital have no legal right to conjugal visits.

The issue came to light when the hospital administrator learned Saito had been escorted home for weekend conjugal visits over two years. The administrator blocked the visits away from the facility and on its grounds.

Dangerous psychiatric patients have escaped recently from other facilities in the United States.

In Washington state in 2016 a man accused of torturing a woman to death broke out of the state's largest mental hospital. Anthony Garver crawled out of a window of his ground-floor room at Western State Hospital, rode a bus 300 miles to Spokane and was captured days later without incident.

After the escape Washington Gov. Jay Inslee fired the hospital's CEO and brought in the Corrections Department to inspect the building for security improvements.

A review of police reports by The Associated Press found 185 instances in the 3 ½ years before Garver's escape in which Western State patients escaped or walked away.

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