HOW DID THIS HAP­PEN?

State Hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials refuse to of­fer ex­pla­na­tions af­ter a dan­ger­ous killer es­caped their cus­tody and flew to California be­fore po­lice were even no­ti­fied

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - rbernardo@starad­ver­tiser.com, thur­ley@starad­ver­tiser.com By Rose­marie Bernardo and Ti­mothy Hur­ley

Hawaii State Hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials, cit­ing pa­tient pri­vacy laws and a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, of­fered no ex­pla­na­tion Tues­day of how a killer in their care walked out of the Ka­neohe fa­cil­ity and found his way to California even be­fore the hos­pi­tal re­ported him miss­ing. At least one law­maker is call­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the brazen es­cape and an­swers to why it took hours to re­port it to au­thor­i­ties. “There’s ma­jor cause for alarm right now by the gen­eral pub­lic,” said state Sen. Will Espero, for­mer chair­man of the Se­nate Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee.

Ran­dall Saito, 59, who was ac­quit­ted by rea­son of in­san­ity in a bru­tal 1979 mur­der at Ala Moana Cen­ter, re­mains at large and ap­par­ently has been in California since Sun­day night. State At­tor­ney Gen­eral Douglas Chin on Tues­day charged Saito with felony es­cape. A $500,000 bench war­rant was is­sued for his ar­rest.

Law en­force­ment in all 50 U.S. states may en­force an ar­rest war­rant is­sued by the state. “This is a dan­ger­ous in­di­vid­ual,” Chin said. “We need him off the streets. The state is in close con­tact with law en­force­ment to make this hap­pen.”

Honolulu po­lice said Tues­day that Saito left the State Hos­pi­tal at 10 a.m. Sun­day and took a taxi to Daniel K. Inouye In­ter­na­tional Air­port where he char­tered a plane to Maui, re­port­edly us­ing cash and a fake ID. Saito then took a flight to San Jose, Calif., ar­riv­ing around 5:30 p.m. Sun­day.

The State Hos­pi­tal didn’t call 911 to re­port Saito’s dis­ap­pear­ance un­til shortly af­ter 7:30 p.m. Sun­day, prompt­ing an all-points bul­letin at 8:30 p.m., po­lice said.

The FBI’s vi­o­lent crimes task force and U.S. mar­shals have joined in the man­hunt.

Court records in­di­cate Saito has rel­a­tives in California who man­age money he in­her­ited from his fa­ther. Records also show Saito in­formed a doc­tor that his fam­ily “sends him some as nec­es­sary.” Mean­while, State Hos­pi­tal Ad­min­is­tra­tor Wil­liam May and Adult Men­tal Heath Di­vi­sion Ad­min­is­tra­tor Mark Fri­dovich on Tues­day were short on an­swers with re­porters at a news con­fer­ence at state De­part­ment of Health head­quar­ters. They said they couldn’t of­fer any de­tails about Saito, his sta­tus at the hos­pi­tal or a time­line of his move­ments at the fa­cil­ity Sun­day. The of­fi­cials did ac­knowl­edge a roughly eight-hour gap be­tween the time Saito was sup­posed to check in from un­su­per­vised re­lease within the hos­pi­tal grounds in the morn­ing and the time au­thor­i­ties were fi­nally no­ti­fied in the evening. They also said it’s pos­si­ble the es­cape could have been an in­side job. But they added any such sce­nar­ios likely wouldn’t emerge un­til af­ter a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter. Fri­dovich said the State Hos­pi­tal is ob­li­gated to treat its pa­tients in the least re­stric­tive set­ting.

“And that means, as part of their re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, af­ford­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore rel­a­tive au­ton­omy and some in­de­pen­dence around their move­ment,” he said. “It’s not a cus­to­dial en­vi­ron­ment; it’s not a prison en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple are locked up for pe­ri­ods of time.”

As for the es­cape, May said the hos­pi­tal alerted au­thor­i­ties as soon as its staff learned Saito was miss­ing. “We take these things very se­ri­ously,” he said. All staff mem­bers are now be­ing re­trained on poli­cies and pro­ce­dures to make sure they are do­ing their jobs cor­rectly and do­ing what they are sup­posed to be do­ing, he said.

May said that as with pre­vi­ous in­ci­dents, Saito’s es­cape likely will lead to pol­icy and op­er­a­tional changes. Espero (D, Ewa BeachIro­quois Point) said more trans­parency is needed from the State Hos­pi­tal and state health of­fi­cials.

He said he was stunned a sys­tem was not in place at the very least to stop a “mur­derer” com­mit­ted to the State Hos­pi­tal from board­ing a flight to the main­land. He plans to re­quest that the Health Com­mit­tee hold an in­for­ma­tional brief­ing to in­ves­ti­gate how Saito es­caped.

“It does ap­pear there’s a break­down in the sys­tem when it comes to these es­capees,” Espero said. “Un­for­tu­nately, these in­ci­dents from the State Hos­pi­tal have been hap­pen­ing more of­ten than they should be. There’s def­i­nitely some se­cu­rity is­sues here that we need to get ad­dressed and do a bet­ter job op­er­at­ing as a state hos­pi­tal. It’s shouldn’t be this easy (to es­cape).” State Sen. Josh Green said the es­cape isn’t sur­pris­ing con­sid­ered how out­dated the hos­pi­tal is. Some of the build­ings date back to the 1930s. Green, a physi­cian, said that’s why law­mak­ers ap­pro­pri­ated $300,000 two years ago to build a new wing.

“We knew there was ram­pant se­cu­rity prob­lems and vi­o­lence there,” he said. Toni Schwartz, spokes­woman for the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety, said the state sher­iffs dis­patch re­ceived a call at about 8:30 p.m. Sun­day, and a pub­lic ad­vi­sory was is­sued just be­fore 8:40 p.m. De­tails of Saito’s vi­o­lent past were not in­cluded in the alert. May said he would be meet­ing with the chair­man of the Ka­neohe Neigh­bor­hood Board to talk about how pub­lic no­ti­fi­ca­tions can get out into the com­mu­nity faster. A dan­ger to oth­ers In 1981, Saito was ac­quit­ted of mur­der by rea­son of in­san­ity in the death of San­dra Ya­mashiro. In July

1979 he shot Ya­mashiro, who was parked next to Saito at Ala Moana Cen­ter, and re­peat­edly stabbed her. Ex­perts di­ag­nosed Saito with sex­ual sadism and necrophilia, and he was com­mit­ted to the State Hos­pi­tal in 1981.

In 2010, Saito filed a mo­tion to re­quest un­escorted off-grounds priv­i­leges to the Koolau Club­house, where he at­tends pro­grams. The club­house of­fers re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices to adults with men­tal ill­nesses.

Two of three doc­tors ap­pointed to a panel to ex­am­ine Saito to de­ter­mine whether to grant him such priv­i­leges were against the mo­tion.

In a let­ter to Cir­cuit Judge Richard Perkins, Dr. Gene Altman said Saito “presents a sub­stan­tial risk of dan­ger to oth­ers as a re­sult of his cur­rent men­tal state.” In bold­face text, Altman added, “There are no con­di­tions un­der which he can be safely al­lowed un­escorted off-grounds priv­i­leges without dan­ger to oth­ers at this time.”

Saito with­drew the mo­tion later that year but filed an­other mo­tion in 2014 seek­ing off-grounds passes. Perkins de­nied Saito’s re­newed re­quest in 2015. Honolulu Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Wayne Tashima, who op­posed Saito’s mo­tion for un­escorted off-site priv­i­leges, de­scribed the 1979 mur­der as “heinous and bru­tal.”

Given the na­ture of Ya­mashiro’s death, “We still con­sider (Saito) a high risk of dan­ger even though it’s been 30 years since the crime was com­mit­ted,” he told the Honolulu Star-Ad­ver­tiser on Tues­day. There is a propen­sity for him to com­mit a sim­i­lar crime, Tashima added.

“I just hope they find him soon,” he said.

In 1993 city prose­cu­tors con­sulted with the FBI when Saito ap­plied for re­lease. FBI agents in­ter­viewed Saito for six hours, ac­cord­ing to a 1997 ac­count in The Honolulu Ad­ver­tiser. Dur­ing the in­ter­view Saito re­mem­bered how the blood smelled when he shot Ya­mashiro be­hind the ear, how it felt when he stabbed her and how she looked when she died.

“This was im­por­tant to him. He re­mem­bered all the de­tails,” FBI Spe­cial Agent Jim McNa­mara told the pa­per. “It be­came clear there was no way he should be on the street again.”

With the FBI tes­ti­mony a state judge de­nied Saito’s re­quest for re­lease.

COUR­TESY DE­PART­MENT OF PUB­LIC SAFETY

BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

Ran­dall Saito is shown on sur­veil­lance video leav­ing the State Hos­pi­tal on Sun­day and also in a taxi­cab he took af­ter es­cap­ing from the hos­pi­tal.

COUR­TESY HONOLULU CRIMESTOPPERS

At top, State Hos­pi­tal Ad­min­is­tra­tor Wil­liam May, left, and Adult Men­tal Health Di­vi­sion chief Mark Fri­dovich held a news con­fer­ence about Saito on Tues­day but would not give specifics, cit­ing pri­vacy laws and an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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