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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 5, 2010

Use of ice central to Cyrus Belt's death, prosecutor says

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, right, made his closing arguments yesterday in the trial of Matthew Higa, in blue aloha shirt, for the murder of 23-month-old Cyrus Belt, who was thrown onto the H-1 Freeway from an overpass.


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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Randall Oyama

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Crystal methamphetamine references dominated the closing argument of Prosecutor Peter Carlisle yesterday in the trial of accused child killer Matthew Higa.

Murdered toddler Cyrus Belt "lived in a world of ice," Carlisle told Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario.

"It is indisputable that he was surrounded by adults addicted and high on ice. There is every reason to condemn their behavior and deplore their supervision of a 23-month-old child," the prosecutor said.

But only one person, Matthew Higa, is responsible for throwing the boy to his death from an H-1 Freeway overpass near Punchbowl on Jan. 17, 2008, Carlisle said.

Higa "killed that small child as a result of voluntary crystal methamphetamine intoxication," Carlisle argued.

Defense attorney Randall Oyama said Carlisle had not proved his case beyond a reasonable doubt. Witness testimony and forensic evidence indicated that the boy was dead or unconscious before Higa, 24, gained custody of the child and hurled him 30 feet through the air and into the path of a two-ton delivery truck, Oyama argued.

"Clearly there is doubt, judge, in this case, and we're asking that my client be acquitted," Oyama said.

Carlisle called Oyama's argument "an imaginary scenario woven together by guesswork and speculation."

Del Rosario, who presided over the non-jury trial, said he will deliver his verdict Feb. 11.

Higa did not testify during the trial.

Before hearing final arguments, Del Rosario questioned the defendant about his understanding of his constitutional rights.


"Do you want to testify in this case?" Del Rosario asked.

"No, sir," Higa quickly responded.

Higa wore a blue shirt decorated with pictures of beer bottles and cans, blue pants and slippers. He was shackled at the ankles and watched by a nearby deputy sheriff.

Witnesses who saw Higa throw the baby off the overpass followed him as he casually walked away from the scene and pointed him out to police. Higa gave a statement to detectives that Cyrus was alive, crying and moving before Higa threw him to his death.

Outside court yesterday, Oyama said, "Matt actually, really doesn't have too much memory of that particular day."

The defense decided to keep him off the stand "because we believe that all the facts necessary for our defense were already available on the record," Oyama said.

The defense lawyer said he thinks Higa is "hopeful that what he views the truth to be will come forward."

Carlisle told Rosario that Higa was "under the influence of, and intoxicated by, crystal methamphetamine" when he intentionally threw the toddler "to his death on the freeway below."

Higa and his father, Shelton Higa, lived in an upstairs apartment in the same 'Iolani Avenue building where Cyrus lived with his mother and her boyfriend and her father.

Shelton Higa testified in the trial that he regularly smoked ice with his son and with Chanco and her boyfriend, Shane Mizusawa.

Half an hour before Cyrus died, the boy was found sitting in the middle of 'Iolani Avenue by an off-duty police officer.

Mizusawa retrieved the boy, explaining to officers that Cyrus had darted away when Mizusawa was unloading his car.

Mizusawa testified that Higa was standing nearby and that Mizusawa then berated Higa for not taking any action when Cyrus was in the street.


Chanco and Shelton Higa said they had left the apartment earlier to go to a downtown gambling parlor, where they smoked ice together. Mizusawa later joined them there and smoked ice with Chanco, Shelton Higa testified.

How Matthew Higa came to have custody of Cyrus before throwing the boy off the overpass is a question that was not answered in the trial.

"We can only speculate," Carlisle said yesterday.

Ogawa indicated in his final argument that Mizusawa was responsible for Cyrus' death and then tried to blame it on Higa.

Mizusawa is "a known felon who abuses drugs" and "he wants to assist the prosecutors in convicting my client," Oyama said.

"He has a consciousness of guilt," said the defense lawyer.

Del Rosario asked the parties to return to court in a week to hear his verdict.