Escaped Hawaii mental patient believed to be in California

Updated November 14, 2017 - 9:26 pm

HONOLULU — The search for a dangerous man who escaped from a Hawaii psychiatric hospital moved to California after authorities said Tuesday he boarded a flight to the state from Maui two days earlier.

Randall Saito, who was acquitted of a 1979 murder by reason of insanity, left the state hospital outside Honolulu on Sunday at 10 a.m., took a taxi to a chartered plane that took him to the island of Maui and then boarded another plane to San Jose, California, Honolulu police said.

“Saito is considered extremely dangerous and should not be approached,” police said in statement late Tuesday.

The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have reviewed security footage from San Jose International Airport in connection with the manhunt, said Jon Vaden, a spokesman for the airport.

He said police have not advised him of any threats at the facility.

Saito was committed to the hospital outside Honolulu in 1981, two years after he was acquitted in the killing of Sandra Yamashiro.

The victim was shot and repeatedly stabbed before her body was found in her car at a mall.

“He is a very dangerous individual,” said Wayne Tashima, a Honolulu prosecutor who argued in 2015 against Saito receiving passes to leave the hospital grounds without an escort.

Tashima warned people not to approach Saito, saying there’s a concern he could commit the same “very heinous and violent offense” again. Authorities asked anyone with information to call police.

Hospital staff called 911 to report Saito’s disappearance at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday — two hours after he arrived in San Jose, Honolulu police said. An all-points bulletin was issued at 8:30 p.m.

It was not immediately clear under what circumstances Saito was away from the facility in a Honolulu suburb.

Hawaii State Hospital Administrator William May said officials are fully cooperating with law enforcement and appropriate steps would be taken if Saito had help from someone inside the facility.

Defense attorneys 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.”

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

The state Department of Health operates the hospital, which houses over 300 patients in Kaneohe. The department said it’s investigating the escape.

“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 about which Iwamoto wasn’t notified.

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

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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