Witnesses thought Higa threw doll from freeway overpass
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
The murder trial of Matthew Higa began in Circuit Court this morning with university student Kraig Hengst describing how Higa tossed toddler Cyrus Belt from a freeway overpass into traffic below.
Hengst said he initially believed Higa had thrown a doll off the Miller Street overpass down to the H-1 freeway below.
“I saw what at first appeared to me being a doll in the air,” Hengst said.
The 23-month-old child “cartwheeled in the air” before Hengst lost sight of him.
Hengst identified Higa, who wore a blue and gold aloha shirt to the trial, as the man he saw.
Hengst was followed on the stand by Kiaha Hansen, a delivery truck driver whose vehicle struck the boy.
Hansen said when the boy’s body dropped past his windshield, he also thought it was a doll.
Hansen’s passenger, Jimmy Aliven, “yelled and said, ‘Uncle, it’s a baby,’” but Hansen could not absorb that statement, he testified.
“I said, ‘No, cannot be, just a doll,” Hansen told Prosecutor Peter Carlisle.
The truck “thumped” as it ran over the boy and Hansen heard a “popping sound.”
Hansen pulled his truck to the side of the freeway, followed by a car driven by nurse Mary Susan Arnold.
Weeping from the witness stand, Arnold said she ran back to the child’s body on the roadway and saw that she couldn’t do anything to help him.
“There was nothing I could do,” she said. “I held its hand and I said a prayer.”
The baby’s hand was warm to the touch, Arnold said.
Defense attorney Randall Oyama plans to argue during the trial that the child was already dead when Higa threw him from the overpass.
In his opening statement, Carlisle said Higa, 24, “was high on crystal methamphetamine” when he “hurled” the toddler off the overpass.
Belt was the son of a neighbor who lived in the same Punchbowl-area apartment building.
The incident occurred at 11:45 a.m. Jan. 17, 2008.
After throwing the child off the overpass, witnesses said, Higa calmly walked away and smoked a cigarette. He walked up Miller Street and then sat in some bushes by the side of the road, where police found him and arrested him, said witness Samuel Durham.