Most recent Fair walkaway affected legal change; will Friday's? - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Most recent Fair walkaway affected legal change; will Friday's?

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SPOKANE, Wash.- The last high profile walkaway from the Spokane County Interstate Fair happened in September of 2009. At that time Eastern State Hospital patient Phillip Paul, 51, managed to walk away from the Fair during a field Trip, sparking a massive manhunt.

Paul was found four days later in the Goldendale area, which is about four hours from Spokane. Authorities say he was trying to hitchhike out of a wooded area where he was hiding. Paul had a guitar case and sleeping bag when he was found, and Spokane County deputies believe he had been hiding in the area since his escape.

They believe Paul convinced a friend he'd been released from the hospital and was able to talk that friend into driving him to Goldendale.

Paul was classified as criminally insane and had been committed to Eastern State Hospital after confessing to strangling and slitting the throat of a woman. He later said he believed the woman was a witch and killed her in response to voices in his head. He also burned a deer carcass as a sacrifice.

Just a few months after Paul's escape Washington state had a new law on the books directly related to Paul and patients at mental facilities. Governor Gregoire signed the bill in April of 2010. The bill limits the reasons for trips away from a hospital for patients who avoided criminal prosecution because they were found not guilty by reason of insanity or were found incompetent to stand trial. Under the new law, such patients will only be allowed to go on a trip when it is authorized by the court.

At this point it's too early to say whether Robert E. Reed's escape will affect any change, but we do have calls in to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

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