Brother tells court he has nightmares from abuse that killed 17-year-old sister
Published Tuesday, September 6, 2016 11:17AM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, September 6, 2016 6:11PM EDT
TORONTO -- The brother of a 17-year-old girl who was killed by her father and stepmother more than two decades ago told a Toronto court that witnessing the abuse she endured has left him permanently scarred.
Cleon Biddersingh, 42, said he has night sweats, nightmares, eating disorders and ongoing insecurities about his abilities as a father as a result of what he saw his sister Melonie suffer through and what he experienced himself.
"No human being or animal should ever be treated the way Melonie and I were treated at the hands of Everton and Elaine Biddersingh," he said in a victim impact statement read Tuesday by the Crown in a sentencing hearing for Elaine Biddersingh.
"Regardless, I have my life and I am alive, unlike my sister Melonie, who never got a chance to live her life, to succeed," he said.
"Knowing what I know now, I also carry extreme guilt for not stopping the abuse and torture of Melonie and me, running away, getting help. This again is an internal conflict that I deal with every single day of my life and I will never forgive myself for."
Melonie's mother and siblings also expressed their grief in victim impact statements that had previously been submitted at Everton Biddersingh's sentencing hearing.
Cleon Biddersingh was a key witness in both his father's and stepmother's trials, painting Elaine Biddersingh as the mastermind of the abuse carried out by her husband.
Melonie was kicked, slapped and thrown against walls by her father, her stepmother once threw a mug at her head so hard it broke, she routinely had her head put down a flushing toilet, she was deprived of food, made to sleep on the floor, confined to the apartment and eventually chained to the furniture, the trial heard.
Though she did not testify at trial, Elaine Biddersingh's lawyers suggested Melonie's father was to blame for the teen's death, while his wife was a victim of domestic abuse.
Elaine Biddersingh was convicted in June of second-degree murder in Melonie's death.
The girl's frail body was found in a burning suitcase in an industrial parking lot north of Toronto in 1994 and went unidentified for years until 2011, when her stepmother told an Ontario pastor the girl had "died like a dog" after being confined and denied food and medication.
The conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years.
Melonie's father, Everton Biddersingh, was found guilty in January of first-degree murder in his daughter's death, which carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Prosecutors argued Elaine Biddersingh should spend 18 to 22 years in prison before having a chance at parole.
In its sentencing arguments, the Crown said Elaine Biddersingh committed an egregious breach of trust in subjecting her 17-year-old stepdaughter to "prolonged slow suffering."
Elaine Biddersingh may not have beaten the teen, but Crown prosecutor Anna Tenhouse argued she was "an equal partner" to the abuse that Melonie suffered, which included food deprivation and confinement.
She had plenty of opportunity to save Melonie but instead committed a brutal crime against a helpless child who depended on her, Tenhouse told court.
The defence has asked for the minimum 10 years of parole ineligibility, saying Elaine Biddersingh was instrumental in solving Melonie's murder and has not been a danger to society since the girl's death.
Defence lawyers also argued that expecting their client to alert Melonie's doctor or otherwise speak out against her husband is "not a recognition of the realities of domestic violence."
Elaine Biddersingh, who wore a dark green sweatsuit, shook her head at times during the hearing and at one point put her fingers in her ears. At other times, she clutched a Bible.
When given the opportunity to address the court, she said only that "Jesus knows everything."
She is expected to be sentenced on Sept. 19.