Father found guilty in 1994 death of teen found in burning suitcase

TORONTO -- A father accused of starving or drowning his teenaged daughter two decades ago was convicted of first-degree murder on Thursday after weeks of graphic and disturbing testimony about the horrific abuse she suffered before she died.

See Full Article

Jurors took about four hours to find an impassive Everton Biddersingh guilty in the death of 17-year-old Melonie Biddersingh, which carries a mandatory life sentence without parole for 25 years.

"I certainly hope Melonie can rest more peaceful tonight," said Toronto Det.-Sgt. Steve Ryan shortly after the decision.

Superior Court Justice Al O'Marra had sent the jurors to deliberate after concluding a charge he had started a day earlier by outlining prosecution and defence positions.

The Crown maintained Biddersingh, 60, drowned or starved his daughter after a period of prolonged abuse, or that she died while her father unlawfully confined her in the small Toronto apartment they shared with her stepmother, Elaine Biddersingh.

"They treated Melonie like a slave," O'Marra told jurors in summing up the prosecution's case. "She was imprisoned emotionally and physically."

The teen, whose charred remains were found stuffed in a suitcase in an isolated industrial area, had come to Canada from Jamaica for a better life. Instead, by the time of her death, she weighed a skeletal 50 pounds and had 21 broken bones in various stages of healing. A vegetable was found in her vagina.

At no time was she allowed to leave the apartment, spending countless hours chained to furniture, stuffed in a tiny closet, or locked out on a balcony. Her father, according to one witness, would kick her and force the helpless victim's head into a toilet and then flush.

O'Marra had told the seven women and five men on the panel they could find Biddersingh guilty of lesser offences such as second-degree murder, attempted murder or manslaughter if they couldn't agree on a first-degree murder conviction.

Several hours into their deliberations, court resumed when jurors sought clarification on the law related to forcible or unlawful confinement and a short while later, they returned their verdict.

According to the Crown, O'Marra told them earlier, Biddersingh knew the girl could die but never sought medical attention because her body was "riddled with signs of abuse."

After she died, Biddersingh maintained his daughter had run away. He never filed a missing person's report.

It was only in 2011 that his wife told a pastor what had happened, allowing police to identify the teen's remains and lay charges in March 2012.

For its part, the defence argued that experts had concluded the teen drowned but no evidence shows her father actually did it.

Instead, the defence said Elaine Biddersingh, 54, drowned her stepdaughter because she hated her and believed she was possessed by the devil.

Given the circumstantial nature of the case, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Biddersingh's wife, an "angry, dishonest religious fanatic," O'Marra said in citing the defence position.

While Biddersingh may have failed to care for and protect his daughter, that did not automatically lead to the conclusion he drowned her, O'Marra further recounted.

Another key witness against the accused, his son Cleon Biddersingh, also lied to hide his own involvement in his sister's abuse, the defence maintained.

Yet neither he nor his stepmother, who faces her own first-degree murder trial in April, said Biddersingh drowned his daughter.

Defence lawyer Jennifer Penman said Everton Biddersingh was disappointed with the verdict and would likely appeal.

Formal sentencing will take place Feb. 8 to allow family members to give impact statements.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Oil prices at highest levels in 4 years

    World News CBC News
    Oil prices were at their highest levels since 2014 in trading Monday, after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided not to raise output. In a meeting Sunday in Algiers, OPEC rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's call to open the taps, with both Saudi Arabia and Russia saying they won't produce significantly more oil. Source
  • Michael Kors reportedly ready to buy Versace for $2B

    World News CBC News
    U.S. fashion group Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. has agreed to take control of Italy's Versace in a deal that could value the company at $2 billion US, sources familiar with the matter said on Monday. The deal comes as budding luxury conglomerates, including Michael Kors' U.S. Source
  • Ford plans to form special committee to probe province's fiscal situation

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - Premier Doug Ford says his government plans to strike a special committee to further investigate Ontario's fiscal situation in light of a newly reviewed multibillion-dollar deficit. Ford says the select committee will have the power to call witnesses, compel documents and gather evidence. Source
  • Mounties hunt on-the-run assault suspect who escaped custody

    Canada News CTV News
    The RCMP in Saskatchewan is looking for a man who escaped from custody following his arrest in an assault case. Police at Kamsack took the 26-year-old accused into custody Saturday afternoon on Cote First Nation. Source
  • AP source says U.S. Deputy AG expecting to be fired

    World News CTV News
    In this July 13, 2018, file photo, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) Source
  • Sex assault charge stayed against one British sailor, trial proceeding for other

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX - The Crown has stayed a sexual assault charge against a British sailor in Halifax but the trial of his co-accused is set to continue today. Simon Radford and Darren Smalley were charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm and participating in a group sexual assault in barracks at 12 Wing Shearwater on April 10, 2015. Source
  • Federal public servants advised to stay home amid Ottawa tornado cleanup

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA – Federal government workers in the Ottawa area have been asked to stay home on Monday as cleanup across the Ottawa area continues following Friday’s tornadoes. Public servants in the National Capital Region received the notice not to come in, or work from home if possible, on Sunday night. Source
  • Wettlaufer inquiry to hear testimony from families of nursing home victims

    Canada News CBC News
    Emotions will be running high as relatives and friends of nursing home residents killed by disgraced nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer testify today at Ontario's public inquiry into long-term care when it resumes in St. Thomas. Closing submissions will be heard this week, capping off the four-month public portion of the inquiry into the safety and security of residents in long-term care. Source
  • Will Bill Cosby, 81, go to prison? A judge is set to decide

    World News CBC News
    Bill Cosby arrived at a suburban Philadelphia courthouse Monday for the start of a sentencing hearing that will determine how the 81-year-old comedian will be punished for drugging and sexually assaulting a Canadian woman more than 14 years ago. Source
  • South Carolina county braced for 'record event' when Hurricane Florence waters crest

    World News CBC News
    Hurricane Florence is by no means done with the Carolinas, where some rivers are still rising and thousands of people were told to plan to leave their homes on Monday before rivers reach their crest. About 6,000 to 8,000 people in Georgetown County, S.C. Source