POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 13, 2010
Convicted child killer Matthew Higa spoke publicly for the first time yesterday about the death of 23-month-old Cyrus Belt, maintaining he did not throw the toddler off a freeway pedestrian overpass bridge.
"I didn't throw the baby over the bridge," Higa, 25, said at yesterday's hearing to help the Hawaii Paroling Authority decide whether Higa should remain in prison for more than 15 years before he can ask for parole.
The hearing was held at Halawa Correctional Facility.
A state judge found Higa guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison with the opportunity for parole after 15 years.
Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle asked the parole board to require Higa to spend 200 years behind bars.
"He threw the kid off. The kid was killed. He did it because he was high on crystal methamphetamine," Carlisle said.
A 200-year minimum guarantees that even if Higa asks for and gets a reduction in his prison term after completing a third of it, he would be 90 years old.
The parole board will send Higa a letter informing him of its decision in two to three weeks.
Higa said he had smoked methamphetamine nine to 10 hours before the fatal plunge.
"At the time of the incident, I was, I guess, semiconscious to what was going on," Higa said.
He said a lady gave him a bag on the overpass and told him to throw it. He said he realized there was a child inside the bag only after police arrested and questioned him.
A witness said he saw Higa throw Belt off the overpass.
"I'm sad (about) what happened to the baby," Higa said. "I used to watch the baby. I was pretty close to it."
Higa's trial lawyer, Randall Oyama, repeated what he said during the trial, that Belt was probably dead before he was thrown from the overpass. He said the state failed to take a hard look at Shane Mizusawa, who at the time was the boyfriend of Belt's mother.
A Honolulu police officer had seen Mizusawa with Belt 15 minutes before the toddler went off the overpass.
Oyama said if Mizusawa had harmed Belt and did not want to get in trouble, "the easiest way to get away would be to put (the toddler) in a bag and give it to the mental boy who's not in his right mind."
Higa said the lady who gave him the bag is a friend of Mizusawa's.
Dean Young, the lawyer handling Higa's appeal, said Higa had a bad drug problem and was experiencing a psychotic episode on the day Belt died. He said Higa has no prior criminal history and has never shown a propensity for violence or disregard for human life.
"On any other day, on any other part of his life, Mr. Higa's just a normal-looking guy. He went to Roosevelt High School. He's very pleasant, has a lot of life experiences, very nice, very easy to talk to," Young said.