HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) is placing seven Hawaii State Hospital employees on off-duty status without pay pending the investigation of the escape of a patient on Nov. 12.
Randall Toshio Saito, 59, who was acquitted of the 1979 murder Sandra Yamashiro by reason of insanity, flew from Oahu to Maui, then to San Jose. He was arrested without incident in Stockon by San Joaquin County sheriff’s deputies on Nov. 15.
Saito’s escape raises a number of questions, such as why the hospital failed to notify law enforcement for 10 hours and how he obtained a backpack, a cell phone, cash and other items shortly after leaving the hospital.
“The hospital employees are being notified and will be relieved of their duties for 30 days as the internal investigation continues,” DOH said in a statement. “As the investigation progresses, more employees may be identified and placed on off-duty status.
“The department is committed to a thorough investigation, evaluation and correction of our hospital protocols and procedures to prevent this type of incident from reoccurring. In addition to placing employees on off-duty status, all unescorted on-campus and off-campus privileges have been stopped, visits to Kaneohe Clubhouse have been suspended, all staff have been retrained on the accountability process, security staff have been reassigned, all levels of patient privilege and visitation policies are being reviewed, additional unannounced patient area searches are being conducted, and procurement of additional security fencing is being expedited.”
“This never should have happened,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at a news conference on Nov. 15. “This incident was a result of a major breakdown.”
In a jailhouse interview with KCRA, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, Saito would not say if anyone helped him escape, but he did discuss his motivation: “They won’t give me a chance. They’re not going to release me. And once I kind of understood that, I kind of figured, well, if anything’s going to happen, it’s going to happen with me. I’m going to have to do something pretty risky and gutsy to prove to these guys that I can handle myself in the community.”
Saito, who claimed that he was high on drugs when he shot and stabbed Yamashiro to death, said, “I regret it every day. I pray for her every day. I believe the family I offended has the right to take my life but no one else. I owe them something I cannot repay.”