Painstakingly pulled from cold, hard ground, the remains of a teenage boy may breathe new life into the murder investigation of his older sister and could raise questions about his own death more than two decades after an apparent suicide.
In a rare step Tuesday, Toronto Police took more than seven hours to exhume the body of 15-year-old Dwayne Biddersingh, who in 1992 fell from the 22nd storey balcony of the Jamaican family’s Parkdale apartment in what was deemed a suicide at the time.
The coroner’s office — who enacted their authority to unearth the state burial plot where no plaque marks Biddersingh’s name — set up with investigators from homicide squad’s cold case unit in Beechwood Cemetery, as snow swirled around marble tombstones and settled on synthetic flowers.
Though unearthing remains is an uncommon investigative step, police now say they want to make sure nothing was missed after the body of Biddersingh’s 17-year-old sister Melonie was found inside a burnt-out suitcase in 1994, with signs of torture.
Melonie’s horrific death was a mystery and became a more than a decade-old cold case until police received a tip in November 2011 that helped them identify her.
“We just want to be thorough,” Det.-Sgt. Steve Ryan said of exhuming Dwayne Biddersingh’s remains. “It’s certainly rare.”
Shortly after 10 a.m., a backhoe pushed through the snow, churning up mud and clay.
After 4 p.m., a decision was made to open the casket — too damaged to be lifted from its final resting place. Biddersingh’s remains were placed in a container and loaded into a black coroner’s van to be transported to the Toronto morgue.
That’s where Kathy Gruspier comes in, a forensic anthropologist who specializes in bones.
“That would be important for their (police) investigation in regards to what was found on his sister’s remains,” said Gruspier, who discovered multiple injuries on Melonie’s skeletal structure more than 10 years ago when she was brought on the case.
“As the body decomposes you lose evidence of healing trauma,” Gruspier said, things like bruising. But below the surface, other signs, such as fractures, remain.
If that’s the case, the anthropologist will mechanically remove those tissue layers to reveal only a skeleton. She will boil the bones before examining them for potential trauma.
For Gruspier, who remains connected to the case all these years on, there was a sense of relief when she finally learned Melonie’s name.
“She was a kid, a teenager, so she bugged me a lot . . . It was like, ‘C’mon, who are you honey?” she said. “It was amazing to finally get her identified.”