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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'There was nothing I could do' for dead tot

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Matthew Higa, right, accused of killing little Cyrus Belt, sits with defense attorney Randy Oyama before Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario.

Photos by BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle hands a photo to Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario after showing it to witness Kraig Hengst during yesterday’s session. Matthew Higa is accused in the death of toddler Cyrus Belt, who was tossed from a pedestrian overpass onto H-1 Freeway.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Mary Susan Arnold, a nurse, breaks down as she testifies about stopping to aid the toddler, after he had been run over by a truck, only to realize that there was nothing she could do but pray.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hansen Kiaha

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A nurse who pulled to the side of H-1 Freeway to assist toddler Cyrus Belt after he had been thrown from an overpass wept on the witness stand yesterday as she remembered the tragic day.

Mary Susan Arnold ran to the child's body on the roadway after he had been hit by a 2-ton delivery truck and saw that Cyrus was beyond help.

"There was nothing I could do," she said. "I held its hand and I said a prayer."

The baby's hand was warm, Arnold said, testifying on the first day of the murder trial of Matthew Higa.

Higa, 24, an admitted methamphetamine addict, is accused of killing the 23-month-old boy Jan. 17, 2008, by dropping him off the Miller Street overpass onto the freeway.

Arnold, other witnesses, police officers and medical examiner Dr. Gayle Suzuki testified in Circuit Court yesterday.

Higa's attorney, Randall Oyama, tried to get Suzuki to acknowledge that the boy could have been dead before he was thrown from the overpass. But Suzuki said that was "very unlikely."

Suzuki said Cyrus died in a homicide caused by "a fall from a height."

The first witness in the trial, college student Kraig Hengst, said he saw Higa throw the little boy off the Miller Street overpass at the base of Punchbowl.

As Cyrus "cartwheeled" down some 30 feet to the H-1 Freeway below, his arms were held straight out from his sides and his legs were held about shoulder-width apart, Hengst said.

That description was evidence to Suzuki that the child was alive as he fell because, she said, he would have used his muscles to hold his arms out and legs apart.

But Oyama cited the fact that the child did not exhibit a "protective response" or involuntary "balance reflex" while he was falling as evidence that he was already dead or unconscious.

Suzuki said she was not an expert in those matters but testified that she found evidence in the autopsy that the boy was alive when he was struck by a truck traveling 'Ewa-bound in the right lane of the freeway.

Some of his organs and skin were "infused" with blood which indicated his heart was still pumping when the truck hit him, she said.

And Suzuki said she found no evidence of injuries that would have been caused by strangulation or asphyxia. The boy was a healthy, normal child, she said.

Both Hengst and the driver of the truck, Hansen Kiaha, said they at first believed that Higa had thrown a doll from the overpass.

As the body dropped past his windshield, Kiaha said, his passenger "yelled and said, 'Uncle, it's a baby.' "

But Kiaha could not absorb that statement, he testified.

"I said, 'No, cannot be, just a doll,' " the driver told Prosecutor Peter Carlisle.

The truck "thumped" as it ran over the boy and Kiaha heard a "popping sound."

Kiaha pulled his truck to the side of the freeway, followed by the car driven by nurse Arnold.


In his opening statement, Carlisle said Higa "was high on crystal methamphetamine" when he "hurled" the toddler from the overpass.

Wearing a blue and gold aloha shirt and blue slacks, Higa sat quietly through the proceedings, exhibiting no emotion when Arnold wept or Suzuki discussed gruesome autopsy photos.

Higa lived with his father in the same apartment building where Cyrus lived with his mother and her boyfriend.

Police officers Darryl Jones and Braden Ogata testified that a half hour before Cyrus was thrown from the overpass, the little boy had been found sitting by himself in the middle of 'Iolani Avenue on Punchbowl.

Shane Mizusawa, the boyfriend of Cyrus' mother, retrieved the little boy from Jones, explaining that the child had run away moments earlier when Mizusawa was unloading his car.

Officer Ogata said that after Cyrus was returned to Mizusawa, Ogata noticed two men sitting on the other side of the street. One of them was Higa, dressed in green "hospital scrubs" clothing, Ogata testified.

Less than an hour later, Cyrus Belt was dead and Higa was in police custody for the child's murder.

How Higa came in contact with Cyrus that day is unclear.

He told police later that a woman gave him the boy and instructed him to throw the child off the overpass.

But the boy's mother, Nancy Chanco, was not at home that morning, and Cyrus had been left in the care of Mizusawa and Chanco's father, according to police reports.

Higa admitted being a crystal methamphetamine addict to police and doctors after he was arrested.

After throwing the child from 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.