Defence urges jury to acquit father in Melonie Biddersingh case

TORONTO -- An evil, demon-obsessed religious fanatic was the likely killer of her horrifically abused and starved teenaged stepdaughter whose body was found stuffed in a burning suitcase two decades ago, a first-degree murder trial heard Tuesday.

See Full Article

In closing arguments, defence lawyer Jennifer Penman urged jurors to acquit the teen's father of deliberately killing Melonie Biddersingh, 17, saying the evidence instead points to his wife as the culprit.

Everton Biddersingh, 60, has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of his daughter. His wife, Elaine Biddersingh, faces her own trial this spring.

Penman portrayed Elaine Biddersingh as an evil domestic tyrant and indifferent mother with a Bible and demon obsession.

Court has heard that she hated her husband and stepdaughter, whom she believed was possessed by the devil and had brought a curse on the family.

"She has the most animus of anyone in the home toward Melonie," Penman said. "Elaine took matters into her own hands and drowned Melonie."

The trial has previously heard the teen was confined for hours in a tiny closet in their Toronto apartment, had her head placed in a toilet that was flushed, was chained to the furniture, was denied food, and was kicked, punched and thrown against walls by her father. Court also heard that her stepmother smashed her head against the wall in an effort to rid her of the devil.

After she died, the Crown alleges Biddersingh crammed his daughter into a suitcase, drove her to a remote area north of Toronto and set her on fire.

The Biddersinghs were arrested in March 2012 after a tip that finally allowed them to identify the victim's remains and lay charges.

The defence called no witnesses, so Penman's closing address was her opportunity to lay out an alternative to the Crown's view -- that Everton Biddersingh killed his daughter either by starving or drowning her.

Jurors, Penman urged, should set aside their emotions about the terrible things visited upon the teen and focus on the facts.

"The tragedy of this young woman's death may easily overwhelm our imaginations," Penman said. "This case fundamentally is not about child abuse. It is about murder."

Penman said it may never be known exactly how the victim died -- apparently on Sept. 1. 1994 -- but pointed to forensic evidence that she drowned, something she urged jurors to accept as fact. Her body also showed signs of severe malnourishment and numerous healing fractures.

While her weakened state and injuries might have been a factor in her death, that is not the same thing as saying starvation was the cause, the lawyer told the jury.

The lawyer said it would be "dangerous" to convict her client on testimony from his wife and his son, Cleon Biddersingh, both of whom had reason to lie to protect themselves from criminal prosecution. Not even they alleged Everton Biddersingh drowned his daughter, Penman said.

Cleon Biddersingh, by his own admission, did nothing to protect his younger sister, Penman said. He lied about what had happened to her the night she died because he had been complicit in the abuse, the lawyer said.

All charges against him -- related to the abuse of his sister and disposal of her body -- were stayed in January 2015, but he could theoretically still be charged with murder, court heard.

Superior Court Justice Al O'Marra has yet to charge the jury.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Tropical depression making its way toward Nova Scotia

    Canada News CBC News
    Claudette, a tropical depression, may affect Atlantic Canada on Tuesday. The depression claimed 12 lives Saturday at it passed through Alabama and brought flooding to a number of southern U.S. states. According to the Canadian Hurricane Centre, the depression is moving over the southeastern U.S. Source
  • Armenia votes in election triggered by war defeat

    World News CTV News
    YEREVAN, ARMENIA -- Polls have closed in Armenia's national parliamentary election that was held to try to resolve tensions over last year's defeat in fighting against Azerbaijan over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Sunday's early election was called by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in a bid to ease public anger over the peace deal he signed in November, which set off months of protests demanding his resignation. Source
  • Biden to meet with Afghan President Ghani as violence surges

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Joe Biden will meet at the White House with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah on Friday to discuss U.S. troop withdrawal amid a surge in fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban across the country. Source
  • Ducharme feels 'helpless' watching Habs from home after positive COVID-19 test

    Canada News CBC News
    Dominique Ducharme felt helpless. The Montreal Canadiens interim head coach — hours after testing positive for COVID-19 — was sitting at home as his team battled in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And all he could do was watch. Source
  • Hot air balloon crash-lands outside Denver, injuring three passengers

    World News CTV News
    A hot air balloon crash-landed at Chatfield State Park outside Denver on Sunday morning, injuring several passengers, the Jefferson County Sheriff said. Three passengers were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and three others are doing OK, the sheriff said on Twitter. Source
  • 5-year-old girl in life-threatening condition after birthday party shooting in Toronto

    Canada News CBC News
    A five-year-old girl remains in life-threatening condition following a shooting during an outdoor children's birthday party in the Rexdale neighbourhood of northwest Toronto on Saturday evening, police say. An 11-year-old boy and a 23-year-old man who were also shot remain in non-life-threatening condition in hospital, said Toronto police spokesperson Const. Source
  • Taiwan welcomes U.S. vaccine aid, bolstering its COVID fight

    World News CTV News
    TAOYUAN, TAIWAN -- Taiwan welcomed 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from the United States on Sunday as help from a true friend, more than doubling the major semiconductor-producing island's arsenal of shots as it deals with a cluster of domestic infections. Source
  • Urgent reforms needed to military justice system to protect misconduct victims: Fish

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- A retired Supreme Court judge is calling for urgent reforms to Canada's military justice system to prevent victims of misconduct, sexual and otherwise, from continuing to suffer. Morris Fish says the current system is rife with areas where the potential for interference in police investigations and courts martial from the chain of command exists, which is why action is needed now. Source
  • Sask. starts Step 2 of reopening roadmap

    Canada News CTV News
    REGINA -- Saskatchewan began the second phase of its reopening plan Sunday as certain public health measures loosened across the province. Step 2, which was triggered when 70 per cent of people age 30 and older got their first dose, will see capacity limits in stores lifted and restaurants will no longer have a limit on the number of people allowed to sit together at a table. Source
  • Tropical depression Claudette kills at least 12 in Alabama as storm lashes southeastern U.S.

    World News CBC News
    Tropical depression Claudette claimed 12 lives in Alabama as the storm swept across the southeastern United States, causing flash flooding and spurring tornadoes that destroyed dozens of homes. Ten people, including nine children, were killed Saturday in a two-vehicle crash, according to Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock, who said the vehicles likely hydroplaned on wet roads. Source