Matthew Higa sentenced to life in prison for death of Hawaii toddler
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
Matthew Higa, the Hawaii man whose public murder of a toddler shocked the state and appalled the nation, was sentenced to life in prison this morning.
High on crystal methamphetamine, Higa, 24, threw 23-month-old Cyrus Belt from a freeway overpass into oncoming traffic just before noon Jan. 17, 2008.
Higa's trial underscored the prevalence of crystal meth — commonly known as "ice" — in Island society. Witness after witness, including Higa's father and Cyrus' mother, testified that they smoked the drug with each other and with the killer in the hours and days before the boy was murdered.
"In the dismal history of crystal methamphetamine in Hawaii, the United States and even internationally, the crime committed by this defendant deserves to live in infamy for decades," Prosecutor Peter Carlisle told Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario this morning.
Del Rosario sentenced Higa to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
He must serve at least 15 years before being considered eligible for parole. But Carlisle said he will ask the Hawaii Paroling Authority to require Higa to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Higa declined to speak at the hearing.
His lawyer, Randall Oyama, told Del Rosario he had instructed Higa not to address the court because of a planned appeal.
Oyama repeated arguments made during the trial that witness testimony and forensic evidence indicated the boy was dead or unconscious before he was tossed from the Miller Street overpass just blocks from the state Capitol and City Hall.
Oyama withdrew as Higa's lawyer at the close of today's hearing because Higa and his father no longer have the money to pay him.
But Oyama said he will assist the public defender's office in appealing the conviction.