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

  • Standoff on Hawaii mountain is about more than a telescope

    World News CTV News
    HONOLULU -- Walter Ritte has been fighting for decades to protect Native Hawaiian rights, inspiring a new generation of activists trying to stop construction of a giant telescope they see as representative of a bigger struggle. Source
  • Air Force to end search for Stephane Roy, son

    Canada News CTV News
    The Royal Canadian Air Force says it will spend one final day searching for a missing Quebec businessman and his son before handing the case over to the provincial police. Stephane Roy and his 14-year-old son Justin were reported missing on July 11 after failing to return home from a fishing trip in Lac de la Bidiere, a remote area in the upper Laurentians regions west of La Tuque, Que. Source
  • Scotland Yard Twitter and emails hacked

    World News CTV News
    London's Metropolitan Police apologised Saturday after its Twitter, emails and news pages were targeted by hackers and began pumping out a series of bizarre messages. After a series of messages late Friday that read simply "test" or seemingly random letters, the police sites began using foul language with anti-police sentiment and calling for a jailed rapper to be released. Source
  • Germany marks 75th anniversary of plot to kill Hitler

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Europeans to confront populism, nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism as she paid tribute to the Nazi resistance in her own country. Speaking Saturday at a solemn ceremony marking the anniversary of the failed attempt to kill Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, Merkel said the courage and sacrifice of the conspirator should serve as an example to people today. Source
  • Friends, community gather to celebrate legacy of Hodan Nalayeh

    Canada News CBC News
    Members of the Somali community in Edmonton organized a memorial Friday for the woman who dedicated her life to telling their stories. Local politicians, community leaders and high school friends were among the roughly 50 people who gathered to mourn and celebrate Hodan Nalayeh, the beloved Canadian-Somali journalist. Source
  • Monsoon flooding death toll climbs to 164 in South Asia

    World News CTV News
    GAUHATI, India -- The death toll in monsoon flooding in South Asia has climbed past 160 as millions of people and animals continue to face the brunt in three countries, officials said Saturday. At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 62 in northeastern India's Assam state over the past week. Source
  • Hong Kong police seize explosives ahead of weekend protests

    World News CTV News
    HONG KONG -- Police in Hong Kong discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive as the semi-autonomous Chinese city readied for another major pro-democracy protest on Sunday. Police said they found about 2 kilograms of TATP and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building late Friday night. Source
  • Are food politics defeating Canada's healthy eating strategy?

    Canada News CBC News
    This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here. Source
  • Iran tanker seizure linked to earlier act by U.K. marines

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Taken on its own, Iran's seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz may seem like a brazen act of aggression, a provocative poke in the nose to both Britain and its ally, the United States. Source
  • Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

    World News CBC News
    The death toll in monsoon flooding in South Asia has risen to 152 as millions of people and animals continue to face the brunt in three countries, officials said Saturday. At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India's Assam state over the past week. Source