The 59-year-old patient who allegedly escaped a Hawaii psychiatric hospital and was captured in California after being missing for four days says he fled in “an act of desperation” because of the conditions in the hospital, according to a jailhouse interview with ABC.
Randall Saito – who was once described as fitting “all the criteria of a classic serial killer” — said in the interview that “patients’ rights were being denied” at the Hawaii State Hospital and that it had deteriorated into a “hell in a handbasket.”
“I don’t want to be in the state hospital, I’m not safe there,” Saito said Thursday from behind bars at the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp, California.
A day earlier, Saito was taken into custody by deputies with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, the office said. “The arrest was made as the result of a tip received from an alert taxi cab driver,” the sheriff’s office explained in a statement. “Saito was arrested in the area of Highway 99 and Waterloo Road” in Stockton, California.
Escape With $6,000 and ‘Bogus’ Driver’s License
According to Saito, he escaped with $6,000 in cash and with a “bogus” driver’s license that featured his photograph and a fake name. Saito did not reveal specifically how he obtained the identification or the money.
“It’s a hospital, not a prison,” Saito said, adding that the hospital has security guards and surveillance cameras, but no “fencing all around” the campus.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
From there, Saito chartered a small plane from a private company to go from Honolulu to Maui. Subsequently, he flew to San Jose, California, about 80 miles from Stockton, because he said it was the cheapest ticket out, according to multiple reports.
Hawaii Department of Health Director Dr. Ginny Pressler told ABC at a press conference Wednesday that Saito’s escape was a “result of a major breakdown” in staff protocols, procedures and guidelines. Seven hospital workers have since been relieved of their duties without pay while officials investigate the incident, officials told ABC.
He is currently awaiting extradition from California, ABC reported. Police told the station if he makes the $500,000 bond in Hawaii, he will be placed back in the hospital’s custody.
Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity in 1979 Killing
Saito was reportedly found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1979 killing of Sandra Yamashiro in a Honolulu shopping mall, and he was committed to the hospital in 1981, according to the Associated Press. Yamshiro had been stabbed and shot in the face and her body was found in her car.
Saito has sought repeatedly to be released from the hospital, according to the AP. A court denied his request for conditional release in 1993, finding that he continued to exhibit evidence of sexual sadism and necrophilia.
Defense attorneys again moved for his release in 2000, but prosecutors argued he “fills all the criteria of a classic serial killer.”
“He is a psychopathic predator whose mental condition continues to represent a serious danger to the community,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Albert reportedly said in 2002.
Hawaii State Hospital Administrator William May told the AP that the hospital staff would be conducting an internal review as to how Saito escaped and if he had help from someone inside the facility.
The state’s Department of Health, which operates the hospital, also said it was investigating. Hawaii authorities could not immediately be reached for comment by PEOPLE on Friday.
“He’s a smart guy, he’s not impulsive,” one Hawaii State Hospital employee told Hawaii News Now of Saito. “It’s not an impulsive act. He had some planning. He had someone on the outside.”