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

  • Iran will not disclose cause of mysterious nuclear site fire

    World News CTV News
    DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- An online video and messages purportedly claiming responsibility for a fire that analysts say damaged a centrifuge assembly plant at Iran's underground Natanz nuclear site deepened the mystery Friday around the incident -- even as Tehran insisted it knew the cause but would not make it public due to "security reasons. Source
  • Federal government, WE Charity agree to part ways on summer student grant program

    Canada News CBC News
    The federal Liberal government and the WE Charity are ending a partnership that would have seen the charity distribute around $900 million in federal student grants this summer. The decision to outsource this work to a third-party with ties to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's family was criticized by some in the charitable sector and by the opposition Conservatives. Source
  • Train hits bus carrying Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan: 20 dead

    World News CTV News
    LAHORE, PAKISTAN -- A passenger train crashed into a bus carrying Sikh pilgrims at an unmanned railway crossing in eastern Pakistan on Friday, killing 20 people, including seven women, officials said. At least eight pilgrims were injured. Source
  • Traffic lineups grow at Atlantic borders as COVID-19 bubble opens

    Canada News CBC News
    Atlantic Canadians are now free to travel among Canada's four eastern provinces without self-isolating to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, but that doesn't mean the process is easy. The so-called Atlantic bubble opened one minute after midnight AT as part of easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Source
  • Early Atlantic pandemic bubble travellers face long lineups

    Canada News CBC News
    Atlantic Canadians are now free to travel among Canada's four eastern provinces without self-isolating to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, but that doesn't mean the process is easy. The so-called Atlantic bubble opened one minute after midnight AT as part of easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Source
  • Coronavirus is surging in Florida -- and so is anxiety over Trump's chances with senior voters

    World News CTV News
    John Dudley, a retired banker, proudly cast his ballot for Donald Trump in 2016, excited at the prospect of sending an entrepreneur to the White House on a pledge to change Washington. It's a vote he regrets, he said, and a mistake he hopes to correct in November. Source
  • U.K. scraps quarantine for some visitors as pubs set to reopen

    World News CBC News
    Boris Johnson wants a haircut and a beer. Like millions of other Britons, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to get a haircut and a beer on Saturday, when the country takes its biggest step yet out of lockdown with the reopening in England of restaurants, pubs and hairdressers, along with secular and sacred venues including cinemas and churches. Source
  • Canada, U.S. left out as U.K. scraps quarantine for visitors from some countries

    World News CBC News
    Boris Johnson wants a haircut and a beer. Like millions of other Britons, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to get a haircut and a beer on Saturday, when the country takes its biggest step yet out of lockdown with the reopening in England of restaurants, pubs and hairdressers, along with secular and sacred venues including cinemas and churches. Source
  • 4 dead, 97 injured in blast at Turkish fireworks factory

    World News CTV News
    ANKARA, TURKEY -- An explosion at a fireworks factory in northwestern Turkey on Friday killed four people and injured at least 97 others, officials said. There were 186 workers at the factory outside the town of Hendek, in Sakarya province, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters. Source
  • RCMP to give update on CAF member arrested on Rideau Hall grounds

    Canada News CBC News
    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police will give an update this morning on the arrest of the Canadian Armed Forces member who gained access to the grounds at Rideau Hall early Thursday morning. Deputy Commissioner Mike Duheme will make a statement and take questions during a briefing at RCMP national division headquarters in Ottawa at 9:45 a.m. Source