Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Father of Dead Teen Told Family She Had Run Away, Brother Tells Murder Trial

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Father of Dead Teen Told Family She Had Run Away, Brother Tells Murder Trial

Article excerpt

Brother testifies in suitcase murder trial

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TORONTO - The father of a 17-year-old girl whose body was found in a burning suitcase two decades ago explained his child's disappearance from the family home by saying she had run away, the teen's half-brother told a Toronto court on Tuesday.

But Cleon Biddersingh said he found his father's words surprising because at the time, his sister had been extremely frail, in pain from regular beatings, had no money and no friends.

"She's so weak, she don't know anyone, so where would she go," the now 41-year-old recalled on the witness stand at Everton Biddersingh's trial. "I didn't believe that she run away."

Biddersingh is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his daughter Melonie. He has pleaded not guilty.

The case of Melonie's death remained unsolved for about 18 years as police were unable to identify the girl's charred remains until they received a tip that led to the arrest of Biddersingh and his wife in March 2012. Elaine Biddersingh's first-degree murder trial is to begin next April.

The jury that will decide Everton Biddersingh's fate has heard that in 1991 Cleon, Melonie and a younger half-brother, all born in Jamaica, were brought to Canada to live with their father and his wife. Jurors have been told that the younger half-brother died accidentally in 1992.

Cleon Biddersingh has testified that the opportunity was initially a dream come true, but soon turned into a nightmare. He alleged that he and Melonie were never sent to school, were turned into domestic labourers and were increasingly mistreated by their father, suffering frequent beatings and food deprivation.

In the weeks before Melonie disappeared, Cleon said his sister was crawling around the apartment because she was in pain and too weak to stand.

Her condition deteriorated to the point where she became incontinent, he said, and he'd have to clean her up.

"You could see her bones, you could see her ribs," he said, choking back tears. "It's not Melonie anymore, there's a lot of bruises."

The last time he saw his sister, Melonie was lying on her side on the floor -- where she was made to sleep -- holding her stomach, Cleon said. …

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