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Doug Clark: Field trip a literal no-brainer

Sun., Sept. 20, 2009, midnight

It’s a coin flip deciding who looks crazier these days.

Escaped psycho killer Phillip Arnold Paul?

Or the alleged mental health professionals at Eastern State Hospital who let Paul and a troop of other criminally dangerous patients go on a field trip to the Spokane County fair?

That sure turned out swell, huh?

Here’s a thought. Next time Eastern State decides to make it Hannibal Lecter Day at the fair, how about letting the public know so families can skip the giant pumpkins and barnyard fun and head to a mall for a movie?

As everyone in the country now knows, Paul ditched his keepers and, like the boogeyman, remains at large.

A lot of people are pretty sore at Eastern State administrators for waiting two hours before sounding any alarms about Paul’s vanishing act.

It’s no mystery. They did it for the same reasons the mayor in “Jaws” wanted to keep a lid on the shark.

But not to worry. State DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus appeared at a press conference Friday where she assured the public that she is quite “concerned” and that a thorough investigation is under way.

Dreyfus didn’t inspire my confidence. I haven’t seen so much nervous wriggling since the last time I tried to bait a hook.

Pardon my skepticism, but the system has been blowing it with this ticking time bomb for more than 20 years.

I know. I first railed about Paul in 1993, when I learned that Eastern State officials were letting him come into Spokane twice a week for art classes.

“I’m so angry,” Helen Mottley told me at the time. “Nobody should go through what my family had to go through.”

Paul killed Helen’s mom, Ruth, on April 25, 1987.

Ruth Mottley was a beloved figure in Sunnyside. The retired educator founded the town’s historical society. She appeared in a list of Washington’s 100 most influential women.

Paul is in a rare league of his own, too. When he’s off his meds and in a full delusional state, Paul’s like the lead in a Wes Craven horror flick.

“He’s the only paranoid schizophrenic – I’ve seen hundreds, maybe thousands of them – that frightened me,” psychiatrist Frank Hardy testified in a 1988 deposition.

The voices in Paul’s head told him Mottley was a witch. So he took care of her in a violent and gruesome way.

Here’s the thing, though. Mottley’s violent death shouldn’t have happened. But even back then the system wasn’t making the right decisions regarding Paul.

Here’s an excerpt from my column in 1993:

“No one is more upset by the system’s handling of Paul than southern Idaho rancher Max Hintze.

“In the spring of 1987, Paul drove off in his truck. He made it to Mackay, Idaho, where Hintze happened upon him sitting dazed in the pickup in the middle of the highway.

“Hintze called a deputy who arrested Paul and found several loaded handguns and a sawed-off shotgun in the truck. Paul was taken to a mental facility in Blackfoot, but Custer County wanted him discharged because of the cost.

“Hintze pleaded with officials to not let him go. He mailed a registered letter to the institution, demanding Paul be kept because of his danger to society.

“Instead, mental health workers gave Paul some drugs and released him to his mother, who took her son back to Sunnyside.”

Just 10 days later, Paul, a former wrestler, crept into Mottley’s home. He all but tore her head off with his bare hands.

Oh, yeah. This guy is definitely “field trip to the fair” material.

In Saturday’s Spokesman-Review, Hal Wilson, Eastern State Hospital’s CEO, said, “We don’t consider him (Paul) extremely dangerous.”

Thanks, Hal. Tell it to Ruth Mottley.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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