Man arrested in connection with Honolulu toddler death

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Matthew Higa, 23, has been arrested in connection with the death of a 23-month-old boy. Higa is alleged to have thrown the child from a pedestrian overpass into oncoming traffic on Honolulu's H-1 Freeway.

The local coroner's office noted that the child died on impact after falling 30 feet (9 meters) from the overpass. This occurred during Thursday's lunch rush hour in the heart of downtown. Upon impact, several cars struck the child, which caused traffic to grind to a halt.

The toddler, Cyrus Nainoa Tupaʻi Belt, was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:07 p.m. (2207 UTC), approximately 27 minutes after being allegedly being ejected from the overpass by Higa. The portion of H-1 was closed for approximately five hours with traffic diverted to side streets. The freeway was reopened in time for the evening commute.

At first the relationship between Higa and the child was unclear, but later reports stated that Higa lived adjacent to him and had babysat him on previous occasions. The boy's mother was out of town at the time of his death, but it was revealed that the child was supposed to be in the custody of his father and not with Higa.

Higa graduated from Roosevelt High School in 2003. In the summer of 2004 Higa was involved in an incident where police reports indicate a three-car race resulted in the death of a friend. Higa has since had a criminal history, with more than a dozen arrests but no convictions, and reports from neighbors of erratic behavior.

Queen's Medical Center, which houses a psychiatric ward in Honolulu, noted that he was a patient there as recently as December 11, 2007. When arrested, Higa was wearing hospital scrubs, which were not immediately conducive to whether Higa was a patient in Queen's psychiatric wing in the last couple of days. A representative of Queen's declined to comment on whether Higa was admitted in the last week.

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