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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 29, 2010

Mother was gambling, smoking ice, stealing on day toddler slain


By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Matthew Higa's father, Shelton, heads to the witness stand in his son's murder trial. Shelton Higa said that he occasionally smoked ice with his son and Cyrus Belt's mother, Nancy Chanco, and her boyfriend, Shane Mizusawa.

Photos by BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Shelton Higa, father of defendant Matthew Higa.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Nancy Chanco, mother of the victim, Cyrus Belt.

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On the morning Cyrus Belt was allegedly thrown to his death from a highway overpass, his mother was gambling in Chinatown, smoking ice and shoplifting at Ala Moana Center, according to her testimony yesterday.

Nancy Chanco said she was at an illegal gaming parlor called the Back Door at Beretania and River streets to gamble and smoke ice on Jan. 17, 2008, and later went to Ala Moana Center to "steal from stores" to support her drug habits.

Matthew Higa, 24, is accused of murdering Cyrus shortly before noon on that day by throwing him off the Miller Street overpass to H-1 Freeway 30 feet below, where he was run over by a two-ton delivery truck.

Chanco acknowledged on the witness stand that she was an ice user when Cyrus died. She said she left the apartment about 8 a.m. that day, leaving Cyrus in the care of her father, Lilo Asiata.

Asiata did not testify in the trial but told police earlier that he was at home sleeping the morning Cyrus died.

Cyrus and his family lived in a downstairs apartment in the same 'Iolani Avenue building where Higa lived.

Shelton Higa, the father of the defendant, testified yesterday that he was a regular ice user, occasionally smoking the drug with his son and with Chanco and her boyfriend, Shane Mizusawa.

Chanco said that after she left her apartment on the morning Cyrus died, she went to the illegal gaming parlor in Chinatown and saw Shelton Higa there.

Shelton Higa said he had been up all night the previous evening and went to the game room to obtain more meth because he was "exhausted."

While there, he said, he smoked ice with Chanco and also saw Chanco and Mizusawa smoke the drug there.

ICE USERS

Chanco said she and Mizusawa then went to Ala Moana Center to shoplift. Chanco didn't return to her apartment and learn what had happened to her son until late that evening.

According to state records, Chanco had tested positive for crystal methamphetamine use six days before her son's death, and had been the subject of investigations by child welfare authorities. After the positive drug test, a child care worker was assigned to visit Chanco's home to ensure Cyrus was being properly cared for, but the visit didn't occur before the child died.

Witnesses testified yesterday that virtually every adult in Cyrus' life was addicted to crystal methamphetamine, including Chanco and Higa.

No witnesses spoke about how Matthew Higa took the 23-month-old boy from his Punchbowl area apartment or why he threw the boy off a nearby freeway overpass.

Shelton Higa told defense lawyer Randall Oyama that his son had been violent in the past when he was "jonesing" from the need for more drugs.

He told Prosecutor Peter Carlisle that his son was violent toward "furniture, things like that, but not to people."

'LIKE A SON'

Shelton Higa said he had met Chanco, the mother of the boy, at illegal gambling parlors. "I'd known her a few years from the game rooms," he told Oyama.

Chanco and Mizusawa helped him find the apartment where he lived with his son, he said.

Mizusawa, Chanco's then-boyfriend, also testified yesterday , admitting that he was an ice user and seller.

He said he considered Cyrus to be "like a son" to him.

At 11:12 a.m. the day Cyrus died, a police officer found the little boy sitting in the middle of 'Iolani Avenue.

Mizusawa retrieved the child from the officer, explaining that Cyrus had run away while Mizusawa was unloading his car.

Mizusawa said that after recovering Cyrus from the officer, he "yelled and swore" at Higa, who was standing down the street.

He told Oyama that he asked Higa "if he was watching Cyrus and he said no."

Asked by Carlisle why he was angry at Higa, Mizusawa said, "I thought he cared for Cyrus and if Cyrus was in the middle of the street he would be watching (out) for him."

No witnesses testified about how Matthew Higa got control of Cyrus that morning.

The defendant did not testify at the trial.

He told police and medical personnel earlier that a woman had given Cyrus to him and told him to throw the child off the freeway.

Oyama has argued during the trial that Cyrus was unconscious or dead when Higa hurled him from the overpass.

Yesterday was the final day of testimony. Closing arguments in the nonjury trial will be delivered before Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario on Feb. 4.