Ont. court upholds murder conviction in death of girl found in burning suitcase

Ont. court upholds murder conviction in death of girl found in burning suitcase

Ontario’s highest court has upheld a Toronto man’s murder conviction in the death of his teenage daughter, whose emaciated remains were found in a burning suitcase more than two decades ago.

Everton Biddersingh was found guilty in 2016 of first-degree murder the death of his 17-year-old daughter Melonie.

He was later sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years, which is the automatic sentence for first-degree murder.

Biddersingh challenged the conviction on several grounds, all related to evidence regarding what caused Melonie’s death.

He argued, among other things, that the judge who presided over his trial erred in allowing jurors to consider a suggestion that he starved his daughter to death.

But in a unanimous ruling released last week, the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed Biddersingh’s appeal, saying the judge was not mistaken in leaving that option with the jury.

“In this case, there was both lay and medical evidence which could have supported an inference that Melonie’s death was caused by her extreme state of starvation, whether following a near-drowning event or independent of any drowning,” the appeal court said.

The three-judge panel also rejected Biddersingh’s suggestion that the judge erred in allowing one of the experts who examined Melonie’s body to provide an alternate cause of death should jurors disregard his evidence on her probable drowning.

It further dismissed his argument that the judge should not have allowed jurors to consider the expert’s explanation on how microscopic plants that were found in Melonie’s sinus and bones — which indicated a potential drowning — could have been transferred inside the family’s apartment.

Prosecutors alleged Biddersingh drowned or starved Melonie, who weighed 50 pounds and had 21 broken bones at various stages of healing when she died in 1994. A vegetable was also found in her vagina.

They alleged the teen could also have died while her father unlawfully confined her in the small Toronto apartment they shared with her stepmother, Elaine Biddersingh.

The Crown alleged Biddersingh then crammed his daughter’s body into a suitcase, took it to a remote area north of Toronto and set it on fire.

Court heard he then told friends and relatives, including Melonie’s mother in Jamaica, that the teen had run away from home. He never reported her missing.

Police weren’t able to identify Melonie’s remains until they received a tip that eventually led to Biddersingh’s arrest in 2012.

The trial heard Melonie, who came to Canada from Jamaica with her brothers in 1991 to live with their father, was never allowed to leave the apartment.

Jurors heard the girl was treated like a slave, chained to furniture for hours and stuffed in a small closet, or locked out on the balcony.

One witness said Biddersingh would kick Melonie and hold her head in the toilet while flushing.

Defence lawyers argued at trial there was no evidence Biddersingh had killed Melonie, and pointed the finger at his wife instead.

Elaine Biddersingh told her pastor about Melonie’s death in 2011, which allowed police to identify her remains and lay charges in the case.

She was also charged with first-degree murder, but after being tried separately from her husband, was found guilty of second-degree murder. She was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 16 years.

Elaine Biddersingh also challenged her conviction. That case is ongoing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 6, 2020.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

crime

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

A 36-year-old Eckville pedophile  was sentenced to 18 years in prison and given a 10-year-long-term supervision order for abusing nearly a dozen children over a decade.
Black Press file photo
Updated: Central Alberta pedophile sentenced to 18 years in prison and declared long-term offender

Eckville man abused nearly a dozen children as young as two over nearly a decade

Short-term rental accommodation is becoming more closely monitored by local governments. File photo
Town of Sylvan Lake looking for input on short-term rentals

Currently, the Town does not regulate short-term rentals.

Businesses are getting creative to keep cash flowing. (File photo)
Central Albertan lobbying government to help those affected by CERB repayments

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Public opposition to the Alberta government’s plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains appears to be growing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File
Alberta cancels coal leases, pauses future sales, as opposition increases

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)
First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Lacombe is looking at its options for reclaiming sewage lagoons that are no longer needed. Vesta Energy Ltd. has signed a deal to use three lagoons to store water for fracking.
Map from City of Lacombe
Energy company to use former Lacombe sewage lagoons to store water for fracking

Vesta Energy Ltd. will pay Lacombe more than $100,000 a year in 20-year deal

Most Read