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

  • Iran's supreme leader says 'no talks with U.S. at any level'

    World News CBC News
    Iran's supreme leader announced on Tuesday that "there will be no talks with the U.S. at any level" — remarks apparently meant to end all speculation about a possible U.S.-Iran meeting between the two countries' presidents at the UN later this month. Source
  • Hidden asbestos: Hundreds of homes in Peterborough, Ont., suspected of containing toxic material from GE plant

    Canada News CBC News
    When Ernie Farris walked past his childhood home in Peterborough, Ont., this summer for the first time in years, he had an alarming thought. In the late 1940s, as a young teen, he had helped his father unload a truck full of fluffy, white scrap asbestos from the local General Electric factory, spreading it in the family's attic as cheap insulation. Source
  • Green leader gets stuck in the sands of World War II history

    Canada News CBC News
    Elizabeth May is an expert on climate change and the environment. She has a law degree from Dalhousie University. And for a time, she studied theology at St. Paul's University in Ottawa with an eye to becoming an Anglican priest. Source
  • New giant salamander species now the world's largest amphibian

    World News CBC News
    Scientists have discovered a new species of giant salamander and concluded that the largest amphibian ever recorded was a member of that species. For a long time, scientists thought all Chinese giant salamanders belonged to a single species, Andrias davidianus. Source
  • Is there a way out for Hong Kong? Not likely, as protesters become more inflamed

    World News CBC News
    After more than 100 days of protest, Hong Kong is one bitter place. Anger and resentment hang in the air and explode on the streets almost daily now. And not just outside the legislature and other symbols of a deeply unpopular government. Source
  • Bernier's in — and the federal election debates just got less predictable

    Canada News CBC News
    The stage is set for Maxime Bernier. His challenge now is to perform. The leader of the nascent People's Party of Canada (PPC) yesterday got his coveted invitation to take part in the two televised debates organized by the independent Leaders' Debate Commission. Source
  • Israelis vote in repeat election centred on Netanyahu

    World News CBC News
    Israelis began voting Tuesday in an unprecedented repeat election that will decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power despite a looming indictment on corruption charges. Netanyahu, the longest serving leader in Israeli history, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, and fifth overall. Source
  • Police respond to reports of shooting at Calgary area mall

    Canada News CBC News
    Airdrie RCMP and Calgary police are on scene at CrossIron Mills mall after RCMP received reports of shots fired at the mall at approximately 7:11 p.m. One male has been injured and the suspect is still at large. Source
  • Taiwan says Solomon Islands switches recognition to China

    World News CTV News
    TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China on Monday, becoming the latest country to leave the dwindling Taiwanese camp. Taiwan's Foreign Ministry confirmed the move, saying the Solomon Islands Cabinet approved a resolution to recognize Beijing as the government of China. Source
  • White House orders two former aides to defy House subpoenas

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The White House has instructed two former aides to U.S. President Donald Trump not to appear at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, saying Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter are "absolutely immune" from testifying at what the panel is calling its first impeachment hearing. Source