Higa sentenced to life in prison


POSTED: Thursday, May 06, 2010

Look no further than the murder of 23-month-old Cyrus Belt for evidence of the ravages of crystal methamphetamine, Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said yesterday.

When police arrested 25-year-old Matthew Higa for throwing the toddler off an H-1 freeway pedestrian overpass into midday traffic, he told them he was a meth addict and later tested positive for the drug.

Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario sentenced Higa yesterday to life in prison with the opportunity for parole for his conviction on charges of second-degree murder.

Del Rosario also ordered Higa to serve at least 15 years of his sentence before he can seek release from prison. The life sentence and 15-year minimum are mandatory penalties for the second-degree murder of someone younger than 8.

The Hawaii Paroling Authority will decide whether Higa will serve longer than 15 years before he can apply for release.

;[Preview]  Matthew Higa receives life sentence

Higa was given a life sentence, with the possibility of parole. He will have to serve at least 15 years in prison, but the prosecutor wants him to serve 200 years.


Watch ]





Carlisle said he will ask the parole board to set a 200-year minimum to essentially keep Higa behind bars for the rest of his life.

“;There can be no conceivable set of circumstances that will guarantee to an absolute certainty that if he is ever released from prison alive that he will not return to the use of crystal methamphetamine with the potential for further violence,”; Carlisle said.

The child's death on Jan. 17, 2008, stunned the community.

Higa's act was so outlandish that one witness thought he must have thrown a doll off the overpass. Another witness assumed it was a dead baby.

The only possible explanation for Higa's actions came from Higa himself: He told police that a woman gave him Belt on the overpass and told him to kill the toddler before her husband did.

Higa did not testify in his own defense.

Nor did he make a statement yesterday, upon the advice of his lawyer, Randall Oyama, who said they would appeal the conviction. He said Higa is nervous about going to prison.

“;Understandably so,”; he said. “;This is something that he'd never been through before.”;

Oyama argued during trial that Higa did not cause Belt's death because the toddler was already dead when he plunged off the overpass.

“;We're hoping that on appeal, they'll make another assessment of the facts in this case because it's our opinion that the facts actually were quite strong that death had occurred pre-fall,”; Oyama said.

Carlisle had asked Del Rosario to sentence Higa to life in prison without the opportunity for parole. He later withdrew the request because, he said, it would have required convincing a jury that Higa deserved the harsher penalty—and the witnesses were admitted meth users.

During trial, Belt's mother, Nancy Chanco, said the morning before her son's death she smoked ice with Higa's father at an illegal gambling room.

Higa's father, Shelton Higa, attended yesterday's court hearing but left afterward without comment.

None of Belt's family attended.

Carlisle said he was not surprised.

“;In terms of the surrounding members of the family of this child, for all intents and purposes, they were always more with crystal meth than they were with this kid,”; he said.