Insane killer caught in Goldendale, Wash., area

September 20, 2009 7:18:57 PM PDT
An insane killer who slipped away from the staff of a mental institution on a field trip Thursday to the Spokane County Interstate Fair was recaptured Sunday without injury more than 180 miles away in south-central Washington state. With a helicopter overhead and dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement officers swarming around Goldendale, Phillip Arnold Paul, 47, seemed ready to surrender when he walked out to the Goldendale-Bickleton road about 22 miles east of town shortly after 4 p.m., just as search personnel arrived at the scene, Klickitat County Sheriff Rick McComas told The Associated Press.

"He came out of the brush, onto the roadway, as law enforcement officers were going by," McComas said. "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. Knezovich said the fugitive seemed to be trying to remain on the loose.

Still, he said, Paul was arrested without incident: "As far as I know, he was cooperative."

Based on information from a confidential informant, investigators believe Paul hitched a ride from Spokane to the Goldendale area, Knezovich said. The focus of the search shifted Sunday when authorities learned precisely where he got out of the car, he said. He wouldn't comment further on the ride or why Paul wound up in Klickitat County.

Knezovich said one of those involved in the arrest, Spokane County sheriff's Detective Roger W. Knight, also nabbed Paul after he gave Eastern State Hospital personnel the slip in 1991 during a field trip in Medical Lake, where the mental institution is located.

Following that arrest, Paul knocked Knight unconscious in the jail booking area, separating his shoulder, 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 brief 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.

"This has been one of the largest manhunts in this region for many years," Knezovich said. "A great deal of teamwork went into the capture of Mr. Paul."

Knezovich said he met with Spokane-area residents Saturday to hear their concerns about the case.

"There was a lot of fear in the community, people locking their windows," he said. "I want people in Spokane County to know that tonight they can sleep in peace.

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.

Previously, authorities said they believed Paul would head for his family home in Sunnyside, about 65 road miles east of Goldendale and about 180 road miles south-southwest of Spokane. But Reagan said investigators have had no indication that he passed through Sunnyside.

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.

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Associated Press Writer Shannon Dininny in Yakima contributed to this report.


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