SPOKANE, Wash. -- A legally insane killer from eastern Washington is back in custody after escaping during a field trip to the county fair that his mental hospital organized.
Spokane County sheriff's Capt. Dave Reagan says 47-year-old Phillip Arnold Paul was nabbed by Deputy Roger Knight -- the same deputy who arrested Paul and was injured by him after an escape in 1991.
Reagan says Paul was trying to elude a search helicopter and walked to a road to try to hitch a ride just as Knight arrived at the scene.
He was found about 180 miles from the Spokane County Interstate Fair where he'd slipped away Thursday during the mental hospital-organized field trip to a county fair.
Paul was recaptured without injury, according to Spokane County Sheriffs.
Why such a dangerous person was out in public was a question many, including Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, were asking following the incident.
Authorities at Eastern State Hospital, where Paul is a patient, are being criticized for allowing him to visit the fair despite his violent criminal past and a history of trying to escape.
"Why was he allowed to take such a trip?" the governor said Friday. "Why did they go to a location that was so heavily populated with families?"
Authorities believed Paul, 47, was headed for the Sunnyside, Wash., area where his parents and many siblings live.
Paul was committed after he was acquitted by reason of insanity in the 1987 slaying of an elderly woman, whose body he soaked in gasoline to throw off search dogs. Paul buried the woman's remains in her flower garden.
In 1991, Paul walked away during a day trip to a Washington lake and was later captured. 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.
Spokane County sheriff's officials were told Paul had $50 when he escaped Thursday -- enough money to buy a bus ticket, said sheriff's spokesman Dave Reagan.
Paul also had time, according to a union that said hospital administrators waited nearly two hours before calling law enforcement. The union said workers alerted their superiors minutes after discovering Paul's escape.
"They believe he was an extreme escape risk and the administration should never have allowed him on the field trip," a statement from the Washington Federation of State Employees said. "The workers have unsuccessfully fought to stop the outings for murderers, rapists and pedophiles committed to the hospital as criminally insane."
Paul has been on and off a variety of medications over the years, and also been in and out of institutions, his brother Tom Paul said.
"He is in a bad mental state," his brother, Tom Paul, told The Associated Press. "Why would they load him on a bus and take him to a fair?"
Thirty-one patients from the mental hospital were on the trip Thursday with 11 staff members. Dreyfus said she did not know how many of those had violent criminal backgrounds.
Patients must be cleared by a treatment team before they can go on trips to stores, parks, and other sites, said Dr. Rob Henry, director of forensic services at Eastern State. They wear street clothing and staff members are required to keep each patient within eyesight at all times.
Henry said trips to the fair were an annual event. The last escape from the forensic unit occurred in 1992, he said.
It is possible a 15-day review, which will be in part conducted by the state Department of Corrections, will end such outings, Dreyfus said. She has ordered an investigation that includes both state mental hospitals.
The state Department of Social and Health Services, meanwhile, has ordered an immediate end to trips like the one taken Thursday to the fair and launched an investigation into the practice.
Paul had a normal childhood in Sunnyside, 200 miles southwest of Spokane, his brother said.
But he started acting strangely as a high school student, his brother said, and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Paul was living in a halfway house in Spokane last year, but ended up back at the hospital in a very agitated state, Tom Paul said. Hospital officials said Paul hadn't exhibited violent behavior in years. They argued in the past that he should be released, but his petition for release was rejected in 2003.
The sheriff's office said Friday that Paul's medication should have kept him stable for 14 days.