Boy’s death was not predictable, state says
Hawaii's top state child protector compared the death of toddler Cyrus Belt to an unpredictable "bolt of lightning" even as she met with police to discuss better communications to prevent such calamitous outcomes.
The past parenting and drug issues of Cyrus' 33-year-old mother, Nancy Asiata Chanco, have been under scrutiny since the boy, unsupervised, was thrown from a freeway overpass last week.
A neighbor, Matthew Higa, charged with second-degree murder in the case, remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail.
"The neglect of a mother would have some types of foreseeable risks to the child," said Human Services Director Lillian Koller, whose department includes Child Protective Services. "But this risk -- a neighbor who's lethal -- would not be within the normal course. It would be a like a bolt of lightning."
Child welfare officials had opened an investigation into 1-year-old Cyrus' situation after his mother tested positive for crystal methamphetamine six days before he died.
An assessment on Cyrus' living situation was scheduled for last Thursday, the same day he was thrown off the Miller Street pedestrian overpass into H-1 freeway traffic.
Cyrus' death has sparked dialogue between the state Department of Human Services and law enforcement officials on how it might have been prevented.
"Let's say Cyrus was removed even at birth," Koller said. "Even beyond that, here was a neighbor who could get access to anyone's child. How do you protect against the first time a lethal act occurs when that somebody previously had no indication of being capable of it?"
Shortly before the murder, Cyrus was found wandering alone in his Makiki neighborhood by a police officer, who returned the boy to his home.
Koller said if police had called that incident in, welfare officials would have immediately responded, given the record the family has.
Koller said she met with police officials yesterday to discuss increased communication between the agencies to prevent a similar situation, despite the difficulty in predicting it.
"That's not to say that we can't lessen the risk for the children," Koller said.
On Jan. 11, Chanco went to the Queen's Medical Center emergency room with problems of a sore eye.
Chanco tested positive for crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," and Queen's officials made a report to Child Welfare Services, sources said. That is what triggered the scheduled home inspection last Thursday -- an appointment that came too late.
Despite Chanco's history of child welfare cases with Cyrus and her two other children, officials saw no need for a faster response.
"If we get a call that a mother has tested positive for ice, that alone is not a trigger for any particular response," Koller said. "If the mother was driving to the hospital with the child while she was under the influence, that would've required a heightened response."
Koller said Chanco had made marked improvements in her parenting skills and was cleaning up from drugs.