A Stockton cab company tipped police after one of their drivers recognized a passenger believed to be a dangerous mental patient who walked out of a Hawaii hospital and made his way to California earlier this week.
Cab driver Kandi Hamman picked up a fare Tuesday evening who seemed nice enough, said Cristina Ostina Oseguera, a dispatcher for Yellow Cab Valley Transport, the company Hamman works for. The passenger said he’d flown into San Jose from Hawaii, and was in Stockton visiting his brother.
Later that night, Hamman saw a news report about escaped mental patient Randall Saito, who was acquitted of a brutal 1979 murder by reason of insanity and committed to the Hawaii State Hospital. The picture and itinerary matched the man she’d driven that night.
The next morning at work, she told dispatchers her suspicion, so when the man called again and asked for her specifically, they were on the alert. They called police and sent another driver to pick him up, keeping close tabs on his location all the while.
The driver, who did not believe the passenger was the wanted man, took him to Walmart. When the passenger got back in the cab, he said he wanted a ride to Reno. Soon after, police pulled the cab over and surrounded the car.
He went without a struggle.
“All he said was, ‘they caught me’,” Oseguera said. “…It went well – it could have been worse.”
Saito is described as "manipulative and charming" in doctors’ reports, said Honolulu prosecutor Wayne Tashima in a telephone interview from Hawaii. Saito had been granted permission in 2014 to leave hospital premises with an escort for recreational purposes; however a subsequent petition for an unescorted pass was denied.
Calls to the Hawaii State Hospital and Honolulu Police Department for more information about how Saito escaped, purchased a ticket and made his way to California weren’t returned Wednesday, but media reports indicate it was likely he had outside assistance in his well-planned escape. Scrutiny of the hospital around the escape and the fact that officials there failed to report him missing for about eight hours is likely.
Extradition procedures to return the suspect to Hawaii are expected to take about two weeks, said Robert Himelblau, a spokesman for the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office.
Honolulu must first request extradition, and the suspect must be confirmed by finger print and photograph to be Saito. In this process, the governor of Hawaii requests extradition from the California governor, with Honolulu and San Joaquin County acting as agents to their respective governors, Himelblau said.
Saito will likely be appointed an attorney, and a competency hearing might be held.
Himelblau said there is almost no chance that Hawaii won’t request extradition, given Saito’s violent history.
“It’s almost inconceivable,” he said.