By Ken Kobayashi
The alleged baby killer was on drugs and not mentally ill, a psychologist finds
A man accused of tossing a 23-month-old baby to his death from an H-1 freeway overpass this year was suffering from a psychotic episode caused by methamphetamine and not by a mental illness, a court-appointed psychologist has reported.
Honolulu psychologist Stephen Gainsley said Matthew Higa was "extremely intoxicated" on Jan. 17 when Cyrus Belt was thrown from the Miller Street overpass.
Gainsley concluded that Higa's ability to know right from wrong or to control himself was not impaired by a mental disorder. The psychologist also reported that he believes Higa is mentally fit to stand trial.
The report, which was made public Friday, is a blow to Higa's insanity defense. The reports of the other two mental health experts were not available.
Higa, 23, who lived near the overpass at the same Iolani Avenue apartment complex as Belt's family, is charged with the grisly crime that shook the community and led to impromptu memorials of dolls, toys and balloons on the overpass days after Belt's death.
Higa was seen throwing the baby from the overpass at about 11:40 a.m., walking away and smoking a cigarette before he was arrested later that day.
He is being held without bail on a murder charge, which carries the state's harshest penalty of a life term without parole because of Belt's age.
The criminal proceedings have been suspended pending a hearing Sept. 10 before Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario on whether Higa is competent to stand trial.
Gainsley's eight-page report is the first full mental evaluation of Higa to be made public. It includes Higa's admission of drug use as well his version of what happened on the overpass, which differs from a witness's account that Higa acted alone.
Gainsley said Higa admitted during an interview at the Oahu Community Correctional Center that he used crystal methamphetamine since March 2006 and marijuana since 2004 but denied abusing alcohol, saying he got drunk only once.
Higa said he was on the overpass when Belt's mother or another woman handed him the baby and said, "Drop this over the side or my boyfriend is going to kill us," according to Gainsley.
Higa said after he realized the baby was Belt, there was a tussle with him pushing the baby to the woman and she pushing the baby back to him when the baby "fell off the side of the overpass," Gainsley reported.
Gainsley said Higa's account of that day was consistent with the police reports, "except for the glaring difference about what happened on the overpass." Gainsley noted that a witness saw Higa acting alone when he threw the baby.
The psychologist's report also includes Higa acting irrationally, such as Higa laughing at inappropriate times and shouting to no one in particular, "Thank you for everything."
At the Oahu Community Correctional Center in July, Higa said he drank urine "for Jesus," Gainsley said.
Higa was prescribed medication that day, Gainsley said.
"It is clear that the defendant has a significant addiction to methamphetamine, and some of these subsequent behaviors such as talking or laughing to himself could be (a consequence) of that drug's effect on his brain," the psychologist said.
Gainsley also reported that Higa had been admitted to the Queen's Medical Center emergency room on Dec. 11, about five weeks before Belt's death. Higa had been taken into custody at a car dealership after talking to himself and, according to Gainsley's report, seemed disoriented, did not respond to directions and repeatedly asked, "Can you shoot me?"
Higa tested positive for methamphetamine and received medication to calm him, the report said.
Gainsley's attorney, Randy Oyama, did not return calls for comment, and Deputy Prosecutor Rom Trader declined to comment on the report because the case is pending.
Under state law, Higa would be committed to the Hawaii State Hospital if the defense convinces a jury that Higa was unable to tell right from wrong or control his conduct to the law because of a mental illness. Higa would remain there for an indefinite period until he is no longer mentally ill or no longer dangerous.
Even if the other two experts disagree with Gainsley, the prosecution will at least have his testimony to contend that it was drugs rather than mental illness that led to the tragic death.
A trial date would be set if Del Rosario finds Higa mentally fit to stand trial.
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