September 26, 2009 in City

Escape call went to Crime Check

Union says hospital waited two hours before telling authorities
By The Spokesman-Review
 

When an insane killer escaped at the county fair, an Eastern State Hospital official didn’t call 911, she called the community crime reporting hot line.

The four-minute phone call to Crime Check was made at 1:14 p.m., about two hours after Phillip A. Paul, 47, walked away from a group of patients and hospital employees during a field trip to the Spokane County Interstate Fair.

But the woman who made the call, identified only as Cheryl, told a dispatcher Paul had left “about 45 minutes ago.”

“They said one minute he was sitting there with the group and the next minute he was gone,” she said.

The union representing Eastern State Hospital workers said the employees on the field trip notified their superiors at the hospital “within two to three minutes” of discovering Paul’s escape but that administrators waited two hours to call law enforcement.

Those issues will be addressed in a state investigation into Paul’s escape ordered by Susan Dreyfus, secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services, said Jim Stevenson, DSHS spokesman.

“That was one of the questions that the secretary posed from the start,” Stevenson said. “What was the time frame in notifying law enforcement?”

The state expects to complete a preliminary investigation by Friday.

The Crime Check phone call began with questions and answers typical in reports of missing or escaped persons, such as physical description and clothing. But about two and a half minutes into the call, the hospital official revealed something that gave the dispatcher pause: “Is he a danger to himself or others?” the dispatcher asked.

“He’s first-degree murder. Yes, he is, and he can be when he’s off his meds,” the hospital official said. “He was living at the Carlyle before, he was discharged from here and he came back. He was living at the Carlyle. I don’t know if he’d head there or not.”

The dispatcher paused.

“So he was charged with first-degree murder but he’s at Eastern?” she said. “Yes he’s CCI, which is committed for criminal insanity,” the hospital worker responded.

The call ended after the worker gave the dispatcher a cell phone number for a hospital worker at the fair.

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