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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 31, 2008

Slain toddler laid to rest

Photo galleryPhoto gallery: Cyrus Belt Funeral
Video: Family, friends lay toddler to rest
 •  Trying to prevent further killings

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Nancy Chanco put a bouquet on the grave of her son, 23-month-old Cyrus Belt, after his funeral service yesterday at Hawaiian Memorial Park in Kane'ohe.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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KANE'OHE On a cold, windy day, under overcast skies, family members, friends and strangers moved by the death of Cyrus Belt said their goodbyes to the toddler yesterday afternoon.

About 80 people from all over the island gathered around the 4-foot-long white coffin at the graveside service at Hawaiian Memorial Park.

Cyrus, 23 months old, was thrown to his death from an H-1 Freeway overpass near his Punchbowl home Jan. 17. A neighbor, 23-year-old Matthew Higa, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder.

For many, yesterday's gathering was a time to bring closure to the emotions brought about by the horrific death of an innocent child. Some family members also expressed anger over media portrayals of Cyrus' mother, Nancy Asiata Chanco, during her time of grief.

Pastor Claudio Borge said the family has had to endure not only the loss of a child, but also media scrutiny of their backgrounds and their interactions with the state child welfare system.

"We need to extend love and forgiveness," Borge said before the burial. In a prayer, he said: "Let the message of love and forgiveness, Father, sink into the hearts of the people here that they may understand what love and forgiveness is all about."

Three bouquets of roses were placed at the foot of the casket. Other wreaths, bouquets of flowers, a teddy bear, stuffed giraffe and other toys lay on the ground waiting for the final placement at his grave, located in a section called Babyland 2, reserved for young children.

In the crowd, mothers held their babies tight and couples huddled together.

The sun came out for a moment. After the service, dozens of colorful pigeons were released, symbolizing freedom and peace.

At the burial, the family asked for privacy while the coffin was buried. About seven people went to the grave, on a lower slope. Nancy Chanco knelt at the grave and left a bouquet of flowers.

Chanco wiped tears from her eyes and leaned on her father as she slowly walked back to the group of mourners.

She declined comment except to say that she was thankful for all the support people have given her, including the donation of the grave plot, services and pigeons.

Lisa Alameda, 66, of Kapolei, was among the community members who attended the service. She said she came because she has grandchildren and great-grandchildren and she was struck by the loss.

Shyenne Schuster, 26, also came to pay her respects. She said she has stayed home from work since the killing because is does not want to leave her 9-month-old son in the care of others.

"It's just emotional," Schuster said. "I don't want to take him to a babysitter. You can't trust nobody nowadays."

Schuster said she been grieving by herself, but recently met and befriended Lisa Belt, Cyrus' aunt, who has helped her.

"Lisa brought a lot of comfort to me," she said.

Lisa Belt said the families are sticking together and helping one another.

"I'm still trying to grasp what's happening," Belt said. "It's surreal for me. I can't imagine this really happened."

Belt said news accounts have portrayed the family in a bad light and that she wants people to know that is not true. "Some people make mistakes," she said.

Philip Asiata, Nancy Chanco's brother, said the media should focus on Higa instead of Cyrus' mother and grandfather .

"She (Nancy Chanco) had nothing to do with her son's death," Asiata said. "Whatever problem she has in the past, she was taking care of it, from my understanding."

Higa's lawyer has said he will probably ask that his client be examined by a panel of experts to assess his mental fitness to stand trial.

Asiata said, "I think that's a brutal evil crime that he's done and I think he deserves life. If he has to stay in the (state mental) hospital, let him stay there for life."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.