"Insane killer" who was treated to a day at a county fair escapes

Insane-Killer What could be wrong with taking an insane killer to the country fair? Oh, yeah.

Insane killer escapes on trip to county fair (Via Bits & Pieces)



  1. This is going to make it all the more difficult for other insane killers to have their day at the fair. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.

  2. Maybe he never left. I’ve seen the guys that run those rides. My theory is he just put on a uniform shirt and a ballcap and starting running, say, the tiltawhirl.

  3. I’m with Case713, only problem he is a bit too clean cut to be a carny. I don’t see any facial tattoos, eye patches ,and it looks as though he has at least 12 too many teeth,(doesn’t have the toothless squish face going.)

  4. Woo hoo! My town is famous! I’ll be going to that fair, tonight. I’d look for him, but he pretty much looks like everyone else that goes there…

    I love this town. The level of stupidity always provides good, solid entertainment and adventure.

  5. We should never give up on people. If the convict is to live a, call it normal, life after his sentence, without being a danger to himself or others, he needs to be treated towards this goal throughout his sentence. If not, we might as well death sentence everyone straight away, since we obviously don’t want them to socialise ever again. The error here lies in letting him escape, not taking him to the county fair.
    I hope they catch him quickly though, and that there are repercussions both for him and the system around him.

  6. This sounds less like of a news story and more like the setup of a 80’s teen slasher movie.

    Ironically, if this were the plot of a movie I’d dismiss it as unrealistic.

  7. vetlemakt, he killed and cooked a woman. Why would he deserve a normal life, after that? I guess I’m more of the opinion that *I* deserve a life of not thinking about him walking through my neighborhood.

  8. I fell a little silly. I thought that after someone was found not guilty because of insanity that they went to the mental health place to get umm…sane, and once they were sane then they went to jail for the crime they committed, since they were all nice and sane now. Is that not the way it works?

  9. Yeah, the fair manager is going nuts trying to do damage control now. After years of attendance problems, things had finally been looking better the last few years, then something like this happens. I suspect a head or two is going to roll over this.

  10. Watch out PNW juggalos – the real deal is pissed about you biting his style (you think the carny escape was a coincidence?).

  11. @14 – No, not quite. When you are not guilty by reason of insanity you are not guilty, no jail sentence. But you are put into a secure facility and treated until such a time as you are safe to return to society, but this may never even happen.

    A lot of the time you’re put away for a longer period of time with this defense, though. It gets mocked a lot, but people don’t really understand what the defense actually means.

    Part of the reason it’s so hard to use as a defense is the fact that there’s a good chance you’ll never go free again, even if the crime is one that would only put you away for a few years.

  12. Vetlemakt@~12: The error here lies in letting him escape, not taking him to the county fair.

    I’d say there were many layers of compounded stupidity at work here. Letting the criminally insane (with a history of trying to escape if given the opportunity) wander about unshackled and in plain clothes for starters. Relying on the watchful eye of the average orderly is the kicker.

    Indeed, it does seem as contrived as a cheesy slasher flick. How many victims will he claim because someone felt that the criminally insane need to socialize outside of their facility in this manner?

  13. gandalf23 #14:

    If you truly ARE insane then it isn’t legally considered a “crime” at all. If I strangled some children because I honestly believed that they were alien cyborgs bent on the destruction of humanity then it basically boils down to a tragic mistake, not a willful act of malice.

  14. Brainspore is correct. Consider this bit:

    Hospital officials told authorities that 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.

    So the hospital officials had every reason to believe he wasn’t dangerous, which means taking him to the fair isn’t necessarily such a harebrained idea.

    Moreover, if they’re correct and his application to be freed was turned down for political reasons (look at the reactions here and in the article for why that might happen), I don’t blame him for trying to escape.

    Remember, not guilty by reason of insanity is still not guilty. And once he’s no longer insane he should go free. (His conviction for escape and assault is a separate matter.)

    gandalf23, the finding you’re thinking of is “guilty but mentally ill,” which is allowed in some jurisdictions. That finding means that the person was legally responsible for the crime committed, but needs treatment for mental illness. In that case the person goes to the hospital first, and if treatment is successful is transferred to criminal detention.

    I am not a lawyer and the above is not legal advice.

  15. Anon 27, be fair. They walked in off the street. No signs of forced entry.

    I heard that they saw the beef jerky at the front counter, and are now being treated for the trauma.

  16. Oh Spokane. I grew up here. When I see news stories about Spokane, it’s always about a wacky animal story or something about a crazy person, like this. *sigh*

    You stay classy, Spokane.

  17. Look, the guy really thought he was killing a witch, and in our culture that’s OK. Just look at Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. She killed two witches and nobody sent HER to a f-ing mental hospital.

  18. @16: “Why would he deserve a normal life, after that? I guess I’m more of the opinion that *I* deserve a life of not thinking about him walking through my neighborhood.”
    Well, you do, and so do I. But as long as he is not sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in prison, we will have to do our best to ensure he is as reliable as possible upon release. Which, of course, means that he will have to get an idea of the REAL world, as well as a chance to adapt to this world. If he had no socialisation for twenty years, he wouldn’t be much of a reliable person once outside, and more than likely show sociopathic features.
    The alternatives would be to either keep every murder stacked away until they die – or kill them right off straight away.

  19. is this boingboing or Fox?
    AP or MSNBC may have screwed up w/ the “insane killer” headline but does BB have to compound the error?

  20. he killed and cooked a woman

    No where does it say he cooked any women. It said he poured gasoline on the remains to throw off sniffer dogs.

    He was found not guilty in 1987 for a murder.

    Hell if he’d been found guilty and was sane he most likely would have walked by now.

    I’ve lived with ‘a violent and crazy’ person before. He beat the living shit out of some people a number of years ago, shortly after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, institutionalised for about a year and a half and put on a community treatment order (by law he has to go in and have an injection fortnightly).

    Lived with him for 4 years, one of the nicest and most gentle people I’ve ever known.

    Sounds like this guy has a similar story, and took the chance to run when he could. Institutions are not nice places.

    It is important to catch him, because he obviously will not be able to stay medicated whilst on the run. This has also probably screwed his chances of ever being released.

  21. “Thirty-one patients were on the trip with 11 staff members.”

    What could POSSIBLY go wrong? The staff are only outnumbered by the mental patients three to one at a crowded fairground!

  22. I’m curious about something a little more mundane. When the original poster took a screenshot of the AP story via Snag-It!, was that meant to avoid legal drama?

    As a followup, was it successful?

    Finally, why or why not?

  23. Since he has a past history of violence while off his medication then there is a possibility that he will become violent again. I don’t know his diagnosis, but people with schizophrenia are typically more of a danger to themselves than anyone else. It may or may not be the case here though. People diagnosed with schizophrenic have a successful suicide rate of 10-15%. Maybe he felt guilty about what he did and ran away to kill himself. I don’t think they’ll post a follow up story about that. The hospitals are there to protect the patients from themselves as well as the rare cases when they are threats to other people.

  24. John G. commented on my Facebook page: “This reflects poorly on other insane killers who may want to go to the fair or visit the Halloween fun house.”

  25. Members of an employees union at Eastern State put out a statement saying they had long opposed such field trips.
    “They believe he was an extreme escape risk and the administration should never have allowed him on the field trip,” the 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.”

    It’s not just murderers who get to take these county outings, but rapists and pedophiles too.

    @12: Sorry, i’ll give up on them, that data is not good. Life sentence, no parole. No outings.

  26. I think we should question the sanity of the person who chose the County Fair as the field trip. Crowd control issues aside, chaotic fairgrounds can threaten the mental status of your average person, let alone people who are already in the deep end.

  27. @35 This has also probably screwed his chances of ever being released.

    Gee, let’s hope so. If you can’t walk this earth without killing or damaging or raping other people, whether you are “mentally ill” or not, we put you in a box. Rightly so. And, as you say, we should just stack them up.

    Viva innocence.

  28. @32 – depends on which version you use of Wizard of Oz. Could be she just hallucinated the murders, so no actual murder; on the other hand, one was an accident (the steering on the house went out, not her fault) and the other one could arguably be considered self defense. Poor little Dorothy, gettin’ a bad rap…

  29. Hasn’t this already happened before? Right now, a Donald Pleasance character is lecturing the police about how dangerous the escapee is, and the self-satisfied cop is pooh-poohing Pleasance about how “dont worry, we’ll catch your loony”. Of course, we know who gets it next.

  30. Crazy to take them to the fair, but once that decision is made, how about a simple GPS enabled ankle bracelet, hmmmmm??

  31. Hospital CEO Harold Wilson told The Spokesman-Review Paul had been “a fairly model patient.”

    “Fairly” model???

  32. “No where does it say he cooked any women. It said he poured gasoline on the remains to throw off sniffer dogs”

    Oh, whew, he didn’t cook her! That’s different then, why not take him to Disneyland? I mean, if he only murdered her and then tried to burn the body, why, he’s as normal as we are!

  33. This says it all:
    Phillip Paul’s criminal history is a violent one. He strangled 78-year old Ruth Mottley of Granger in 1987 because he said the voices in his head told him she was a witch.

    A judge found Paul to be criminally insane, so he was sent to Eastern State Hospital and not a prison. At the time, doctors blamed schizophrenia and, said he’s not dangerous if he’s on his medicine.

    In 1990, Paul escaped from Eastern State and was found in a farmer’s field. He assaulted a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy as they tried to arrest him.

  34. Maybe he is just posing as one of the Hospital administrators and no-one is able to tell the difference. A hiding in plain site kind of thing.

  35. I met this guy many years ago. The first time my now-ex-wife, was hospitalized was at eastern state hospital. I spent many hours there visiting with her while her meds stabilized, and in that time I got to know quite a few people who were permanent residents of that place. While the guy was on his meds he seemed like a pretty normal individual, if not a bit dazed from the medication he was on. Sorry to disappoint, but not all who are in a mental institution are as whacked out as the movies would have you believe. I would be easy for anyone to have seen how this guy who’s been acting normally for many years to be complacent about what a risk he truly was. Something as simple as turn over in staff or assignment of a case to someone else who has no indication of his past added to the excessive amount of workload could cause to happen.

    I agree that it is a very bad thing, but there’s a lot more to this story that the news is publishing. All we here is “the state run institution screwed up” from the news. But we will never hear the many bits of circumstances that led up to it.

  36. “Which, of course, means that he will have to get an idea of the REAL world, as well as a chance to adapt to this world.”

    Couldn’t they have had an outing to a library? Are county fairs run by people who look crazier than where he currently resides the best representation of the real world? On the other hand they could of taken him on a tour of our Congress. He would have grabbed his medicine and over-dosed himself.

  37. doctors blamed schizophrenia and, said he’s not dangerous if he’s on his medicine

    This is my point exactly.

    He was believed not to be dangerous while medicated. If he’d been sane and had gone to prison he would have been released by now, instead he has spent more than 20 years in an institution for a crime he was found not guilty for.

    I don’t know the specifics of the case (and neither does anyone else commenting here) but it seems a lot of the doctors involved felt he should have been released years ago and put on a community treatment order.

  38. Well, it looks like they found him, and took him peacefully into custody. I’m guessing it’s going to be a long time before he goes on any more field trips.

  39. The fact that there are so obviously news organisations ready to pounce on anything like this happening, proves that there isn’t really much of this happening (murderers escaping on hospital furloughs), or you would hear about it a lot more.

    I conclude that the vast majority of formerly dangerous psychiatric patients are extraordinarily well-behaved.

  40. The craziest part of this story is the significant number of people on BoingBoing defending the practice of taking insane murderers on field trips to the county fair.

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