Judge charging jury in case of teen found stuffed in burned-out suitcase

TORONTO -- A Toronto judge is charging the jury in the 21-year-old case of a teenager found stuffed in a burned-out suitcase.

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Apart from the standard instructions to jurors, the judge has been outlining evidence of the horrific abuse Melonie Biddersingh suffered before she died.

Her father, Everton Biddersingh, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in her death in September 1994.

Superior Court Justice Al O'Marra noted a central issue is the credibility of two key witnesses: the teen's older brother and her stepmother.

The brother, Cleon Biddersingh, testified how the accused would kick and stomp the victim, starve her, and flush her head in the toilet.

He also testified Elaine Biddersingh was the "mastermind" in the family who believed her 17-year-old stepdaughter was possessed by the devil.

"She began to lose weight. He could see her bones and ribs," O'Marra said in recounting the sibling's testimony."

"Elaine would call Melonie the devil and say she was evil and wicked."

Charges including aggravated assault and criminal negligence were stayed against Cleon Biddersingh, who also testified his sister was weak, incontinent, in pain, and suicidal.

He also said he sometimes hit his sister at the urging of his father, but never to hurt her.

O'Marra noted several apparent inconsistencies in the brother's testimony, saying it was up to them to decide what to believe.

In closing arguments Tuesday, defence lawyer Jennifer Penman urged jurors to acquit Everton Biddersingh, 60, of deliberately killing his daughter, saying the evidence instead points to his wife as the culprit.

Elaine Biddersingh faces her own first-degree murder trial this spring.

Penman portrayed Elaine Biddersingh as an evil, demon-obsessed religious fanatic and the likely killer.

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

It's not certain how the teen died, but it appears she either starved to death or drowned. The defence maintains the latter.



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