A criminally insane killer who escaped during a mental hospital field trip to a county fair remained on the run, and furious residents and officials wondered why such a dangerous person was out in public.
Authorities believe Phillip Paul, 47, is heading to the Sunnyside, Washington, area, where his parents and many siblings live.
The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office used a helicopter to search for him on Friday, while officers searched transient camps along railroad tracks in the area.
“He is in a bad mental state,” said his brother, Tom Paul. “Why would they load him on a bus and take him to a fair?”
That’s a question many are asking. Eastern State Hospital is being criticized for allowing Phillip Paul to visit the fair despite his violent past and history of trying to escape.
Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard has called it unacceptable, and the state Department of Social and Health Services ordered an immediate end to such trips and launched an investigation into the practice.
Phillip Paul was committed after he was acquitted by reason of insanity in the 1987 slaying of an elderly woman in Sunnyside.
“Why was he allowed to take such a trip?” Washington Governor Chris Gregoire asked on Friday. “Why did they go to a location that was so heavily populated?”
Susan Dreyfus, secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services, said those questions would be answered in an investigation she has ordered.
Dreyfus said it is not unusual for “forensic” patients who are being held against their will to earn the opportunity to go on field trips as part of their therapy.
Tom Paul said his brother was a junior-college wrestler and martial artist who should not be approached.
This is the second escape for Phillip Paul. In 1991, he walked away during a day trip in Medical Lake. He attacked a sheriff’s deputy in the jail booking area, knocking him unconscious, and was convicted of first-degree escape and second-degree assault.
Phillip Paul had a normal childhood, but as a high school student began hearing voices and thought they were witches, Tom Paul said. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Phillip Paul has been on and off a variety of medications over the years, Tom Paul said.
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