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

  • Early Halloween highway horror: Flaming pumpkins jam traffic

    World News CTV News
    SAN ANTONIO, Fla. -- In an early Halloween highway horror, a truckload of burning pumpkins has been blocking traffic on a Florida interstate. Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins said in a news release that a tractor-trailer hauling pumpkins struck a guard rail on southbound Interstate 75 near Tampa early Friday, sparking a fire. Source
  • Indiana man locked in cave for 60 hours, forgotten by group

    World News CTV News
    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A 19-year-old man who spent 60 hours locked alone inside a gated southern Indiana cave says he feels lucky to be alive. Indiana University freshman Lukas Cavar was on a spelunking trip to Sullivan Cave about 10 miles (16 kilometres) south of Bloomington when he became separated Sunday afternoon from 12 other members of the university's Caving Club. Source
  • Nova Scotia to make abortion pill available for free at pharmacies

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia government says it will make the abortion pill available to women at no cost. Kelly Regan, the minister responsible for the status of women, said Friday the province was “supporting more choice for women” by making Mifegymiso available by prescription starting in November. Source
  • Driver ticketed twice in 8 minutes for using cell phone

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    VANCOUVER — A driver in Vancouver needed just eight minutes to rack up more than $700 in fines and eight demerit points, all because of a reluctance to put down the phone. Vancouver Police posted a photo of the two tickets on social media, showing that within a space of barely six blocks along one of the city’s most congested streets, the driver of the rented Hyundai Accent was stopped twice for using an electronic device. Source
  • Obama campus assault guidance gets scrapped under Trump

    World News CTV News
    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks about campus sexual assault and enforcement of Title IX, the federal law that bars discrimination in education on the basis of gender, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at George Mason University Arlington, Va. Source
  • Warmer and wetter fall season in store for Canada, says meteorologist

    Canada News CTV News
    It may be the first day of fall, but in some parts of Canada it feels more like the middle of summer. Temperatures hit the mid-20s in southern Ontario and Quebec Friday, and could get as high as 30 C over the weekend in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Source
  • Crown sets out case in trial of 2 Dalton McGuinty staffers

    Canada News CBC News
    The prosecution began laying out the allegations against two of former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty's most senior officials on Friday, marking the second corruption trial involving provincial Liberals this month. David Livingston, McGuinty's chief of staff in 2012 and 2013, and his deputy chief of staff Laura Miller, are charged with breach of trust, mischief, and misuse of a computer to commit mischief. Source
  • Indiana man goes spelunking with group, gets locked in cave for 60 hours

    World News Toronto Sun
    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A 19-year-old man says he feels lucky to be alive after spending 60 hours locked alone inside a gated southern Indiana cave. Indiana University freshman Lukas Cavar was on a spelunking trip to Sullivan Cave about 10 miles (16 kilometres) south of Bloomington Sunday afternoon when he became separated from 12 other members of IU’s Caving Club. Source
  • NASA’s asteroid chaser swings by Earth on way to space rock

    World News Toronto Sun
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s asteroid-chasing spacecraft is swinging by Earth on its way to a space rock. Launched a year ago, Osiris-Rex will pass within about 11,000 miles (17,700 kilometres) of the home planet Friday afternoon. Source
  • Ontario to cover HIV prevention pill under public health plan

    Canada News CBC News
    Ontario will soon cover a combination HIV prevention pill that is now available in generic form, HIV advocates say. The once-daily pill contains two anti-HIV drugs that reduce the risk of sexual transmission in HIV-negative individuals. Source