Intimate vigil marks a decade since toddler’s horrific death

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Ten years ago today, a toddler died after he was thrown off a freeway overpass.

On Wednesday night, a handful of people gathered at the Miller Street overpass to remember little Cyrus Belt.

“We met through this tragedy and we said we’d never let people forget him as long as we live,” said Shyenne Schuster, who helped organize the vigil. “We’ll always come here and leave flowers and balloons, and say prayers and never forget Cyrus.”

He was only 23 months old, but Belt had already been in and out of state foster care a number of times.

His father, David Belt, was locked up in prison, and his mother, Nancy Asiata Chanco, had a history of drug use.

On Jan. 17, 2008, just before noon, a man dressed in medical scrubs walked onto the Miller Street pedestrian overpass in the Punchbowl area and threw the boy onto the freeway below.

“All I can think of is what did he do to the baby before he dropped him over the freeway?” Chanco told us the following day.

Matthew Higa, then 23 years old, was arrested two blocks away after a witness followed him.

Higa and his father lived next to Belt’s family.

Belt’s grandfather, Lilo Asiata, said he was sleeping that morning, and didn’t know his grandson was alone.

“He was the most admired, most lovable child you’ve ever seen,” Asiata said.

Belt’s death shook up the community. People couldn’t believe that someone would commit such a heinous crime to such an innocent little boy.

“I regret that more than anything,” Chanco said. “I wish I would have took him with me on my errands, and if I did, I guess none of this would have happened.”

In 2010, Higa was sentenced to life in prison, and the Hawaii Paroling Authority set his minimum at 200 years.

Higa said he’d been high on crystal methamphetamine at the time, and didn’t know what he was doing.

“The crime committed by this defendant deserves to live in infamy for decades to come,” then-city prosecutor Peter Carlisle said in 2010.

Belt’s father sued Higa and the state for negligence.

Six days before Belt died, Queen’s Medical Center notified the state that his mother was on ice, but the state Department of Human Services didn’t take him away.

The state eventually settled out of court, paying $10,000 to avoid further litigation, but admitted no fault.

Specifics of Higa’s portion of the settlement are said to be in the low six figures.

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