Friday, 4 December 2015

CREEPS XII: The murder of a child by her parents

It is very rare that I copy an article from a newspaper onto my blog, word for word but this article written by Rosie Dimanno, a highly respected syndicated newspaper columnist with the Toronto Star wrote this compelling article that surely moved her readers to tears.  For me to rewrite it would be a disservice to her article. At the end of her article, I will write my own comments.  And now, her article.

Melonie Biddersingh came to Canada from Jamaica in early 1991 with nothing more than a single suitcase.

Whether this was the same suitcase in which her charred remains were found three years later, behind a Vaughan commercial building, is unknown.

The known details are gruesome: 21 healing fractures discovered on autopsy, when that pitiful corpse was examined by a coroner; weight of 50 pounds, far below the normal body index range for a 5-foot-2 teenager, indicating severe malnourishment; an ante-mortem — before death — head contusion that had resulted from trauma or blunt force injury; fluid in the nostrils and bone marrow, indicative of drowning as either a cause of death or major contributing factor—the liquid from a freshwater source, not tap water, perhaps pooling rain.

All of these details were related in a Toronto courtroom Wednesday, (Oct. 29, 2015) as the prosecution laid out its case against Melonie’s biological father.

To the death roll of Randal Dooley and Jeffrey Baldwin, children starved to death and grotesquely mistreated while alive, right in our midst, add now the name of this 17-year-old who lived and died with nobody taking notice.

All but held prisoner, the court was told, in a one-room apartment she shared with her father, her stepmother, two brothers, two half-brothers and, eventually, an infant half-sister for whom she was responsible. When the baby’s diaper needed changing, Melonie would be summoned with a buzzer.

She was not allowed to attend school, though furthering her education — her ambition to one day become a nurse — was the main reason Melonie had been excited about moving to Canada, leaving behind a mother and four other siblings, living in abject poverty in a slum shack.

The harshness of Melonie’s existence was only summarily outlined by Crown Attorney Anna Tenhouse in her opening address to the jury. The details here are all from that address:

At times, the teen was kept in a closet, “hidden from the outside world.”

She was made to shower on the balcony in summer, was at times locked out there as punishment, and forced to use a bucket to relieve herself.
She was called names like “the devil,” told that she’d brought evil to the family.

Was placed in a barrel and interrogated.

Made to sleep on a piece of cardboard on the living room floor, though there was a sofa bed nearby.

Had her head placed in the toilet and the toilet flushed, as punishment.

Was kicked and punched about her body, dragged by the hair and stomped upon.

Was at times chained to furniture.

Deprived of food, she became so weak she could no longer hold her baby sister. Enfeebled to the point that her older brother had to help her bathe after the girl urinated or defecated on herself.

Her brother, Cleon, was allegedly forced to sell drugs and warned that, if he ever told anyone about it, or about the abuse in their home, “harm would come to him and his family in Jamaica,” Tenhouse told the jury.

Cleon got out by and by, ran away. Melonie’s other brother, Dwayne — 12 when he arrived in Toronto, a year younger than Melonie — died in an accident 17 months later.

Melonie died, court was told, on Sept. 1, 1994. This is not yet evidence. It is the prosecution’s claim.

But the photograph displayed on a screen in the courtroom — that’s evidence.

Blackened, curled into a pathetic heap of limbs, bits of singed hair still visible on the death scalp.

In the front row, Melonie’s mother, Opal Austin, choked on a sob and wept. Melonie’s sister, Racquel Ellis, was overcome: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Who could do this terrible thing?

Melonie’s father, Everton Biddersingh, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. His wife, Elaine Biddersingh — Melonie’s stepmother — has also been charged with first-degree murder but will be tried separately next year.

On Aug. 31, 1994, Det. Steven Seabrook, then a constable with the canine unit of York Regional Police, was patrolling in the Highway 7 area when he noticed a plume of black smoke. He tracked it to a spot behind an industrial area. What he saw, at first, were flames a couple of metres high, emanating from a pile close to a garbage bin. At the base of the fire was a tire, largely melted — source of the black smoke, from the burning rubber.

The heat was so intense Seabrook could come no closer than 4 or 5 metres.

Another officer arrived with a fire extinguisher, but that only put the blaze out temporarily. The flames sprung back.

Next came the firefighters, who were able to douse the pyre with water. And then they all saw, amidst the charred heap, a grisly sight.

“At that point, it was obvious to us there was a body lying on the tire, in the fetal position. No flesh on the legs, the head was very black and charred,’’ Seabrook testified yesterday. “I noticed a metal square shape around the body, looked like the frame of a suitcase.’’

The Suitcase Girl, as she became known in the media, once it was determined that the corpse was female.

No name. And no one came forward with information about a missing teenage girl.

Those with long memories may recall, as the years went by, the occasional press conferences as police continued attempts to identify her. The artist’s depiction of how she may have looked. The forensic sculpture of a female head, which triggered no public recognition either.

They never gave up but they never came close to solving the mystery.

Eighteen years would pass, longer than the length and breadth of Melonie’s sad life.

And then, as Tenhouse told court, the secret was exposed, the plotline that police have never revealed. On Dec. 11, 2011, Elaine Biddersingh confessed to her pastor, court heard, that the girl in the suitcase was her step-daughter. The minister took that information to police, and the Toronto Police cold case unit took carriage of the matter.

Opal Austin, living in Jamaica, was contacted. For nearly 20 years she had wondered what had become of her daughter and sought information. Everton Biddersingh told her Melonie had run away to New York.

DNA from the mother was matched to The Suitcase Girl, confirming her identity. She had a name. She claimed her history.

Outside court, Racquel Ellis told reporters: “It’s like the hole of my belly button dropped out. I couldn’t breathe. I had to come out of the courtroom. It’s like my heart was going to stop beating.’’

Everton and Elaine Biddersingh were arrested on March 5, 2012, in Welland, Ontario, Canada.

My own comments

It is common knowledge that creepy parents like those two monsters are in every country around the world and Canada is no exception. If they were convicted of first degree murder in Peru, the most they would get is 12 years in prison. In Canada, their sentences, if convicted of first degree murder is a minimum of 25 years in prison less the 3 years they have been in custody They will serve those sentences in a protective cell block since the general population prisoners would probably kill them if they were elsewhere in a prison. Hopefully, they will spend much longer in prison than just 23 years.

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