CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Matthew Higa remains in jail in lieu of $1 million bail after pleading not guilty in District Court yesterday to second-degree murder charges in the death of toddler Cyrus Belt.
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The alleged killer had previous run-ins with the law over pizza
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STORY SUMMARY »
Matthew Higa, accused of throwing 1-year-old Cyrus Belt from a freeway overpass, made his initial appearance yesterday in Honolulu District Court, his ankles and wrists shackled and looking disheveled in a white jumpsuit.
Higa pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder and remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail.
After his son's appearance, father Shelton Higa said he has "an idea" why his son threw the child off a pedestrian overpass and onto the freeway, but declined further comment. He also admitted that his son has a history of abusing crystal methamphetamine as well as suffering from mental illness.
Matthew Higa is no stranger to legal disputes.
Last March, the manager of the Papa John's Pizza outlet in Nuuanu was unsuccessful in persuading a district judge to issue an order against Higa to stop him from requesting pizza deliveries from the company.
Last night, islanders expressed their sorrow at the death of Cyrus and other domestic-violence victims at a candlelight vigil and march at the state Capitol.
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The father of alleged killer Matthew Higa acknowledged his son has a history of drug abuse and mental illness.
Shelton Higa said his son has smoked crystal methamphetamine or "ice." News crews talked to him after chasing him as he left Honolulu District Court yesterday after his son's initial appearance.
Matthew Higa pleaded not guilty and remains in jail in lieu of $1 million bail. He is accused of throwing 1-year-old Cyrus Belt from the Miller Street pedestrian overpass and onto the H-1 freeway's westbound lanes.
An autopsy revealed that Cyrus was killed by injuries from a fall. Dr. Gayle Suzuki, the deputy medical examiner, said the autopsy did not show "objective evidence to indicate that he was dead prior to being thrown off the pedestrian overpass."
Higa appeared before a district judge yesterday afternoon, his ankles and wrists shackled, looking disheveled in a white jumpsuit.
Higa's father, who lives with his son at the Iolani Avenue apartment building where Cyrus also lived, said he did not know how the boy ended up with his son.
When asked if he knows why his son would do such a thing, Shelton Higa replied, "I have an idea," but declined to elaborate.
Cyrus' grandfather, Lilo Asiata, told police he left the boy under Higa's care prior to the killing, according to court and Department of Human Services records.
This contradicts other statements Asiata has made. Asiata told the Star-Bulletin last week that Cyrus' mother's boyfriend left the boy with Higa.
Yesterday was not the first time Matthew Higa was in court.
Last March, the manager of the Nuuanu Papa John's Pizza store sought an order against Higa to stop him from ordering pizzas from the company. Honolulu District Judge Gerald Kibe denied the request, ruling the matter was not covered by the law to prevent harassment.
In her application, Rebecca Gleason identified Higa as a former employee who "has been writing bad checks for orders placed via the Internet."
Gleason said Higa began ordering pizzas Aug. 19, 2006. By Aug. 30, she said, Higa was ordering pizzas online daily, and by Sept. 30, he was ordering multiple times per day.
On Nov. 3, Gleason said the company discovered that the checks Higa used to pay for his orders were from a closed account. She said she informed Higa verbally and in writing that he must pay for his orders in cash only. By that time, she said, Higa owed Papa John's $1,979 for 60 orders.
Even after Gleason said she informed Higa the company was not going to accept payment by check, she said Higa continued to place orders using different names and addresses and ordering from different stores.
On the same day Gleason said she talked to Higa, he placed two more orders, which were not delivered. The day after that, he placed five more orders, and the day after that, three more orders, she said.
On Jan. 5, 2007, Gleason said Higa chased after a driver attempting to deliver an order to a customer with a bogus name and a nonexistent address and tried to pay for the order by check.
By March 3, 2007, she said, Higa made at least 63 unsuccessful attempts to order pizzas.
Gleason said company officials decided to deliver a pizza to Higa on Jan. 31 and accept his check for payment in order to report the case to Honolulu police. She said it was a detective from HPD's Financial Fraud Division who advised her to apply for a restraining order.
Funeral for Cyrus set for tomorrow
Services for Cyrus Belt are scheduled for tomorrow at Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary.
Visitation will be from 5 to 6 p.m. in the west chapel before services.
Belt was born Feb. 7, 2006. He is survived by mother Nancy Asiata Chanco, father David Belt, brothers Jordan Fonoti and R.J. Chanco, and extended family.
Residents can donate to the Cyrus Belt fund at the Bank of Hawaii.