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At sentencing, admitted killer says he fled State Hospital to prove he posed no danger

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 5:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The admitted killer who escaped Hawaii State Hospital in 2017 and jumped a Hawaiian Airlines flight to California, triggering a nationwide manhunt, was sentenced Thursday to five years behind bars under a plea deal that also gives him credit for time served.

After Randall Saito serves his time in prison, he’ll be remanded back into the custody of the state Health Department and returned to Hawaii State Hospital ― a forensic psychiatric facility in Kaneohe.

Prosecutors noted that by the time he goes back, they should be completed with an expansion that includes a more secure area.

Before the judge approved the plea agreement, Saito addressed the court, saying that he takes “full responsibility” for his actions but that he felt he had no other option but to flee from the hospital.

He said he wanted to prove he didn’t pose a danger to the public.

“Elopement was the only avenue left to me to show, empirically, my ability to and willingness to function in the community, and to commit nothing illegal or harm anyone,” he said.

Saito also alleged that he has seen crimes committed against patients at the facility.

“It is a milieu of ineptitude, abuse and malfeasance and I have lived through that for decades,” said Saito, who was wearing what appeared to be same jacket he had on when he was captured in California. “I fear for all the patients who are up there. I dread the day I have to go back.”

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have painted a different picture of Saito’s intentions.

He walked away from the facility with fake IDs and thousands of dollars in cash and caught a flight to California ― all before hospital staff realized he was gone.

Saito was acquitted by reason of insanity for the gruesome 1979 killing of 29-year-old Sandra Yamashiro at Ala Moana Center. She was a stranger to him. He was committed to the State Hospital in 1981 after experts diagnosed him with necrophilia, or sexual attraction to corpses, and sexual sadism.

In his address to the court, Saito said he wanted to express his “sincere and deepest sorrow” to the Yamashiro family “for their loss.”

He added, “It was truly my wish that things had turned out differently for all of us.”

This story will be updated.

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