Hospital escapee still at large

September 08, 1997

Staff and wire reports

WESTON, W.Va. - An accused killer who escaped from a mental hospital on Saturday remained at large Sunday, West Virginia State Police said.

Banner C. Catlett, 21, of Hedgesville, W.Va., was charged in connection with the Feb. 4 killing of Andrew Mason, 29, of Tomahawk, W.Va.

He walked away from the William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital, where he has been since he was found innocent by reason of insanity on an arson charge in Berkeley County, authorities said. Hospital officials called police when he could not be found, said State Police spokeswoman Karen Ann Simsen.


Catlett was scheduled to stand trial for the shooting on Sept. 23. He confessed to shooting Mason twice in the head with a rifle he stole from his mother, state police have said.

Catlett had a pass to walk the grounds of the state hospital, which is not gated, authorities said. Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely criticized giving him that freedom.

"That's ridiculous," she said. "We send people there who are insane and actively dangerous and they give him a pass. What safety is this for the community at large?"

According to Berkeley County Court records, Catlett had been sent to the hospital in Weston twice before for treatment of mental problems. He was diagnosed as being psychotic and violent, court papers said. He also claimed he could communicate with UFOs, records showed.

Catlett is described as standing 5 feet, 10 inches and weighing 165 pound with short brown hair. He wore a green shirt and brown pants when he left the hospital, police said.

Mason, who lived on Saw Mill Road in a mobile home, had befriended Catlett and tried to help him work through his problems, according to court records.

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