23 MONTH OLD CYRUS BELT THROWN FROM PEDESTRIAN OVERPASS – CCA0009 – UPDATED 03.24.2014
23 MONTH OLD CYRUS BELT THROWN FROM PEDESTRIAN OVERPASS BY MATTHEW HIGA
On January 17, 2008, 23 month old Cyrus Belt, was thrown over a Honolulu pedestrian overpass onto the H-1 Freeway by Matthew Higa.
Kraig Hengst was working in an apartment garage across the street from the pedestrian overpass where the boy was thrown and saw a man “toss the baby” into traffic about 11:40 a.m. “I saw the baby high in the air. I thought it was a doll at first,” said Hengst, visibly shaken. Hengst, 19, said Higa was holding the child on the overpass in one arm. Then, he “tossed it into the air.” After the boy was thrown, witnesses said they saw the man walking calmly away toward Prospect Street, smoking a cigarette. When he was out of sight, Hengst and a few friends went to the pedestrian overpass to see what had been thrown. When they realized it was a child, they followed the man on foot and on a bike and called police, giving officers a description of the man and leading them to the suspect, who was found hiding in some bushes near 513 Prospect St.
Cyrus was also hit by a truck after falling 29 feet. Mary Susan Arnold tearfully describes finding Cyrus’ broken body on the H-1 freeway. “There was nothing I could do, I held the baby’s hand and it was warm.” Mary was one of the first witnesses on scene and the first person to reach Cyrus after he was thrown. I can’t imagine the horror that replays in her mind every day, seeing that baby boy lying mangled on the road. I wish this never happened of course, but it did, and I am grateful that the last person to touch Cyrus, was a kind woman, holding his hand.
Mary was driving on the freeway when the vehicles in front of her swerved to the right, so she did the same and pulled over. She says that when she passed Cyrus’ body, she knew instantly it was a small child. Mary ran to his side, ready to help in any way she could, but quickly realized that Cyrus had already received his wings and left this world. She returned to her car to retrieve a blanket to cover Cyrus with. A small gesture to some, but a huge gesture for me. This woman allowed Cyrus to pass with dignity, to be shielded from the stares and chaos that followed. Mary – thank you for everything you did, thank you for being there for Cyrus when no one else was.
Hansen “Sonny” Kiaha was in the truck ahead of Mary and was surprised to see something falling from the overpass almost hitting his car. His passenger immediately said “Uncle, it’s a baby!” Kiaha couldn’t believe it was a baby, it had to be a doll, then right after, “I felt a thump.
Then I heard a loud pop.” The popping sound, was Cyrus’s head crushing and exploding below the tire. There was no way for Kiaha to avoid hitting Cyrus, it all happened in a matter of seconds, before anyone could even process what just really happened.
About an hour after Cyrus was thrown from the overpass, Higa was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder. As the man was taken away by police, he yelled, “Thank you for everything” to KITV camera crews repeatedly. Higa was taken to the main police station but was sent to Queen’s psychiatric ward before he could be booked after becoming belligerent.
At the time of his detainment, Matthew Higa was wearing hospital scrubs, that appeared to be from the nearby Queen’s Medical Centre, which happens to have a mental health wing which Higa has been a patient of before. Police said he had been a patient as recently as December 11, 2007, after an incident at a Honolulu car dealership in which he locked himself in a car and refused to get out until officers were called to the scene. Higa was not arrested for an offense but was sent to Queen’s for psychiatric evaluation. A neighbour of Higa stated he often displayed odd behaviour, walking up and down the stairs all night, screaming at 3:00 AM and sitting on the ground in the garage during the daytime.
Matthew Higa lived in the same apartment complex as the Belt’s and was occasionally asked to care for Cyrus. Neighbours stated that the mother’s boyfriend often took the toddler upstairs to Higa’s apartment. Matthew Higa’s father, Shelton Higa, admitted to being a long time meth user and stated that he often smoked meth with his son, Chanco and Mizusawa. Cyrus didn’t have much of a chance did he, what with everyone surrounding him smoking meth and caring more about their next fix than the safety of an innocent baby. Police interviewed the boy’s mother, Nancy Chanco, and her boyfriend, Shane Mizusawa, trying to determine how Higa got the boy. The mother said she had left the boy with her father, Lilo Asiata, to go illegally gamble and smoke meth on the day Cyrus was murdered.
Higa admitted he was high on crystal meth at the time of the incident, and to being in a semi-conscious state on the day Cyrus was murdered. At one of his hearings, Higa claimed to know the child, but insisted he was not the murderer. His attorney, Randall Oyama, actually said that Cyrus was dead before Higa threw him off the overpass, as though that somehow made this less horrific, and is completely untrue. Oyama went on to spew his ridiculous theories, attempting to make Higa a victim just like Cyrus was. He suggested that Cyrus was actually murdered by Mizusawa, who then placed the toddler in a bag, gave the bag to a friend, who then gave Higa the bag to throw over the overpass. Oyama claimed “the easiest way to get away would be to put Cyrus in a bag and give it to the mental boy who’s not right in his mind.” Isn’t it funny how Oyama is claiming that Higa was essentially tricked into throwing Cyrus off the overpass in a bag, not even aware that Cyrus was in the bag, and yet witnesses saw Higa dangling Cyrus over the overpass, testifying that it was very clearly a child Higa threw. You know – nothing disgusts me more than when an evil monster harms a child, and then tries to claim that they are also a victim, just like the child. It makes me want to lose my junk. There is no excuse for what happened, NO EXCUSE.
Matthew Higa was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. The Hawaii Paroling Authority set Higa’s minimum sentence at 200 years for murdering Cyrus. Under the sentence of life in prison which Higa received, he would have been eligible for parole after 15 years, so Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle asked the Parole Authority to sentence Higa to 200 years in prison before he can seek parole. This sentence guarantees that even if Higa asks for and gets a reduction in his sentence after serving a third of the time, he would be 90 years old. Carlisle announced the decision saying “You get some encouragement that there is justice for his memory but that never makes up for the life of a child.”
Cyrus’ father, David Belt, and aunt, Lisa Belt, filed a law suit against the state and Chanco. The suit alleges that Chanco “repeatedly left Cyrus Belt with others who did not provide proper care” for Cyrus and that her negligence “was a substantial factor in causing Cyrus Belt’s injuries and death.” The allegations continue saying that the state DHS and its Child Welfare Services Branch “knew or should have known of defendant Chanco’s dangerous drug use and neglect of Cyrus Belt failing in their legal duty and responsibility to timely remove Cyrus Belt.” DHS records seem to confirm that the allegations, actually hold some truth, and DHS was negligent resulting in Cyrus’ death.
Records previously released by DHS show that prior to Cyrus’ death, there were at least SIX separate child welfare investigations into Chanco’s care of Cyrus and his two siblings. Three of the six cases actually resulted in findings that Chanco neglected her children, including a case in 2006 when Chanco was accused of abandoning Cyrus to allegedly use drugs. So Cyrus and his sibling were on the radar – they were KNOWN to be in danger, and still no action was taken to keep these children safe, and ultimately alive. NOTHING was done, there was no accountability for Chanco, and that allowed her to continue neglecting her children and using drugs, because no one ever bothered to do anything about it, she never faced any repercussions.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages from the defendants. Now let’s take a moment to talk about David Belt, Cyrus’s father. Belt is not the type of father you hope your child has. At the time of Cyrus’ death, he was locked up in state prison, serving a sentence for drug offenses. That’s right, drug offenses. Nothing hypocritical about this law suit is there? Seems to me that Cyrus was better off being raised by monkeys than these two idiots.
Chanco has a long history of drug abuse and relationships wrought with domestic violence, and Cyrus was her third baby. Unable to take care of either baby before Cyrus, Chanco lost custody of the both boys. Her oldest son, now 16, lives with relatives, while her second son, now 5, lives with Chanco’s mother. Cyrus was a new beginning for her she claimed “This baby was my first baby that I really took care of on my own. All he wanted to do was be beside his mommy. He’s the only thing I cared enough about to change. And it’s too late now.” It is definitely too late now, and the bottom line is that she never changed, she never tried to be a good mother – look at what she was doing, leaving Cyrus to go smoke meth, and worse yet, smoking meth throughout her pregnancy, endangering this little man’s life before he was even BORN! I have no sympathy for this woman what so ever, I’m sorry, but I just don’t. She should never be allowed around another child.
Now there is something that happened 25 minutes before Cyrus was thrown from the overpass that just doesn’t sit right with me. Honolulu police officer, Darryl Jones, had found Cyrus standing alone in the middle of Iolani Avenue. Although off duty, he immediately pulled over with his strobe lights flashing and brought Cyrus into his car, calling dispatch. Here’s where I don’t feel right, where I think an opportunity to save Cyrus’s life was completely thrown away.
Before an on duty officer could arrive at the scene, Jones allowed Cyrus to leave with a man who claimed to be Cyrus’ mother’s boyfriend. Shane Mizusawa showed the officer his ID, and then was sent on his way with the baby boy. I would think that after finding a 23 month old baby boy alone in the middle of the road would require a lot more concern and care than handing the baby over to a man claiming to know the child, without any factual proof that he does. Let’s be honest, Mizusawa’s relationship to Cyrus was not listed on his ID, so Jones, really didn’t know if this man was going to help or harm Cyrus, and even if he did know the relationship between Mizusawa and Cyrus, THE BABY WAS FOUND ALONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET. Clearly he was not being watched and clearly this little boy needed to have someone intervene and really assess the situation in which Cyrus was living. Once again, Cyrus was failed.
Hundreds of people turned out for Cyrus’ funeral, packing the church pews and over flowing to standing outside on the church lawn. Cyrus’s father, David Belt, was given a temporary release from prison to attend his son’s funeral, being escorted into the church in handcuffs before the service began. Three of the firefighters who responded to the scene on the day Cyrus was murdered were also in attendance. Engine 6 Captain Greg Ikeda said that this, Cyrus’ ‘senseless’ death, was one of those times when he just couldn’t hold the tears back. Strangers, family and friends clung to each other, with the tears overflowing as they took a moment to pause at Cyrus lying in his white casket, and say their final goodbyes. One lady who did not personally know Cyrus attended his funeral saying “I just feel a kindred spirit with this child. There’s a spiritual connection. Everybody loves him, and I know I’ll never forget him.” The statement was one repeated as strangers continued to come forth to pay their respects to Cyrus, and to whisper the silent promise that he will forever be in their hearts.
The overpass from which Cyrus was thrown turned into a massive memorial site, each side lined with balloons, stuffed animals, drawing, notes, flowers, all for a little man taken brutally from this world long before his time. To further honor Cyrus’s memory, former Army staff sergeant Stacey Norris, gathered up the stuffed animals for children and injured soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, after asking Asiata if she could do so. The stuffed animals were brought home, washed, and mailed overseas, all at Stacey’s expense. Cyrus was honored in many wonderful ways, showing that the community will never let his memory fade, and will never stop fighting to keep other children from suffering the same fate as Cyrus did.
Cyrus baby – spread your wings and fly, you know nothing but love now.