Prison isolates Higa for safety
State prison officials have separated Matthew Higa -- charged with throwing a toddler to his death onto the H-1 freeway -- from the rest of the inmates at Oahu Community Correctional Center.
"For Mr. Higa's safety, he is housed separately from the other pretrial inmates," said Louise Kim McCoy, state Department of Public Safety spokeswoman.
Higa, 23, is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge in the death of 23-month-old Cyrus Belt on Jan. 17.
Attorney Randy Oyama entered a not-guilty plea on Higa's behalf yesterday in Circuit Court. Higa appeared in court via closed-circuit teleconferencing from OCCC. Circuit Judge Derrick Chan set trial for March 31. Higa remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail.
This is not the first time prison officials have separated defendants awaiting trial in high-profile cases for their own safety.
In 1999 they put Xerox killer Byran Uyesugi in a special holding cell, and in 2002 they did the same for Christopher Aki, who was later convicted of manslaughter in the bludgeoning death of his girlfriend's 11-year-old sister.