Defence to make closing arguments in Toronto 'suitcase' murder trial

TORONTO - The defence makes its closing arguments to a Toronto jury today at the first-degree murder trial of a man accused of killing his teenage daughter and leaving her body in a burning suitcase.

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Everton Biddersingh has pleaded not guilty in the death of 17-year-old Melonie, whose charred body was found 21 years ago.

Crown prosecutor Mary Humphrey on Monday urged the jury to find Biddersingh guilty, saying his "reign of terror" reduced his daughter from a happy, healthy child to a starved, emotionally broken teen, ultimately killing her.

The case has taken two decades to get to trial because police weren't able to identify Melonie's remains until they received a tip that eventually led to the arrest of Biddersingh and his wife in March 2012.

The trial has heard that Melonie came to Canada from Jamaica with two brothers in 1991, when she was 13, to live with her father and stepmother.

Jurors have heard that the girl - who hoped to one day become a nurse - was not sent to school and suffered brutal beatings, food deprivation and gut-wrenching abuse at the hands of her father.

Melonie was treated like a slave, Humphrey said in her closing arguments, and was "withering away" before her father's eyes but he did not stop mistreating her.

"Everton took away everything from Melonie," she said. "He took away her will to live."

Over the course of many months, Melonie was confined for hours in a tiny closet, had her head placed in a toilet that was flushed, was chained to the furniture at times, was denied food and was kicked, punched and thrown against walls by her father, the trial has heard.

Melonie wasn't taken to the hospital as her health deteriorated - despite her obviously frail body and the fact that she had trouble moving - because Biddersingh didn't want anyone to detect that the girl had been abused, Humphrey said.

While the exact cause of Melonie's death is debatable - there are suggestions she may have drowned or merely starved to death - Humphrey told the jury there was no doubt that Biddersingh's "planned and deliberate" actions caused his daughter to die.

After Melonie's death, Humphrey told the jury, Biddersingh crammed his daughter into a suitcase, drove her to a remote area and set her on fire.


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