Judge tells jury witnesses had reason to lie in case of teen found stuffed suitcase
Melonie Biddersingh is shown in a Toronto Police Service handout photo. (Toronto Police Service/The Canadian Press)
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 6, 2016 4:22AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 6, 2016 2:15PM EST
TORONTO -- Two key witnesses in the case against a man charged with killing his teenaged daughter both had reason to lie, a judge told jurors on Wednesday.
In charging the jury, Superior Court Justice Al O'Marra warned the seven women and five men to view the testimony against Everton Biddersingh given by his wife and son with extreme caution.
"A central issue is the credibility of the principle witnesses," O'Marra said during his lengthy instructions. "It is up to you to decide how much to believe."
Elaine Biddersingh testified that her "monster" husband was abusive and beat her daily -- testimony not supported by other evidence -- and that she had no idea how her 17-year-old stepdaughter, Melonie Biddersingh, died in their small Toronto apartment in 1994.
She did however testify that she accompanied her husband -- on his orders -- to the location north of Toronto where the suitcase carrying Melonie's body was set on fire in 1994.
O'Marra noted that Elaine Biddersingh was present during abuse of the teen, and faces her own first-degree murder trial in April.
"She has an interest in the outcome of the case, a strong motivation to lie," the judge said.
Everton Biddersingh, 60, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of his daughter, who experts estimated weighed just 50 pounds -- the size of an average eight-year-old -- when she died.
Autopsy results showed she had 21 bone fractures in her lower back, pelvic area and legs in various stages of healing -- injuries that might be seen in a car-crash victim.
Her older brother, Cleon Biddersingh, testified that his father inflicted the injuries -- at the behest of his stepmother, who he said ruled the roost and believed the teen was possessed by the devil -- by kicking and stomping her.
In addition to beatings and food deprivation, the girl was frequently chained to the wall, had her head pressed into the toilet which was then flushed, was confined for hours at a time to a tiny broom closet, or shut out on the balcony.
In the days before her death, she could barely walk, was incontinent, in pain, and suicidal, Cleon Biddersingh testified.
"He could see her bones and ribs," O'Marra said in recounting the sibling's testimony.
Cleon Biddersingh also said he complied with his father's orders to beat his sister, but that he was careful not to hurt her, testimony O'Marra highlighted.
O'Marra also noted that charges including aggravated assault and criminal negligence were stayed against Cleon Biddersingh. He also noted several apparent inconsistencies in the brother's testimony, saying it was up to jurors to decide what to believe.
It's not certain exactly how the teen died -- it would take almost 20 years to identify her charred remains -- but it appears she either starved to death or drowned. The defence, which called no witnesses, maintains Elaine Biddersingh was a domestic tyrant obsessed with demons who drowned the girl.