NEWS
11/02/2015 11:56 EST | Updated 11/02/2016 01:12 EDT

Brother testifies at trial of father charged in death of girl found in suitcase

TORONTO — The half-brother of a 17-year-old girl whose charred body was found in a burning suitcase 21 years ago is testifying at the trial of his father, who is charged in the teen's death.

Cleon Biddersingh is telling a court that he, Melonie Biddersingh and his younger half-brother Dwayne Biddersingh came to Toronto from Jamaica in 1991 to live with their biological father and his wife.

Everton Biddersingh has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of his daughter Melonie.

Cleon Biddersingh, who is now 41, says he and his siblings considered the opportunity to come to Toronto a dream come true, but once in Canada their lives turned nasty.

He says they wanted to go to school, as they had done in Jamaica — Melonie in particular wanted to be a nurse — but their father did not allow them to go.

Instead of getting an education, Cleon, Melonie and Dwayne were made to clean the family's small apartment, court heard, and Cleon was forced to sell drugs for his father.

As time passed, Cleon and Melonie were treated differently from the children Everton had with his wife — their food was rationed, they had to sit and sleep on the floor and were threatened with beatings if they didn't obey their father, court has head.

The jury has heard that Melonie died on Sept. 1, 1994.

Expert evidence expected in the case will indicate Melonie had 21 "healing fractures" in her ribs, spine, pelvis, right knee and left ankle that were caused three weeks to six months before her death, the jury has heard.

Expert evidence is also expected to indicate that Melonie had inhaled water shortly before her death.

The case has taken two decades to get to trial because police weren't able to identify Melonie's remains for years until they received a tip that eventually led to the arrest of Biddersingh and Melonie's stepmother, Elaine Biddersingh, in March 2012.

Elaine Biddersingh's trial on first-degree murder is set to begin in April 2016.

Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press