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Melonie Biddersingh, 17, was found dead in a burning suitcase in 1994. A jury has found her father guilty of first-degree murder.

Everton Biddersingh has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his teen daughter, whose charred body was found in a burning suitcase 21 years ago.

The jury at the trial in Toronto returned its verdict just hours after beginning deliberations on Thursday morning.

Biddersingh, 60, had pleaded not guilty. He faces a life sentence with no eligibility of parole for 25 years.

Seventeen-year-old Melonie Biddersingh's body was found in the suitcase in an industrial area north of Toronto in 1994. The Crown had alleged that Biddersingh drowned or starved his daughter after prolonged abuse.

Alternatively, the prosecution argued that she had died while her father unlawfully confined her in their small Toronto apartment.

Det.-Sgt. Steve Ryan of the Toronto police cold case unit said Thursday that the verdict brings him "a sense of relief."

"I hope that Melonie can rest more peacefully tonight. Her mom now knows what happened to her," Ryan told reporters outside the courthouse on University Avenue.

'Justice has been served'

Melonie's half-sister, Racquel Ellis, said Melonie's mother, Opal Austin, is "not doing well at all."

"She's not sleeping at all," Ellis told CBC News in a telephone interview from Kingston, Jamaica not long after the verdict was handed down.

"She has restless nights."

Ellis, 43, who had been in Toronto for much of the trial, said "justice has been served."

"He's wicked. He's someone who doesn't have a heart," Ellis said. "It's your own flesh and blood, it's your own flesh and blood, what you put her through, your own flesh and blood."

"They must lock him up and throw away the key because he brought so much pain to my mom," she said.

'We sought the truth'

Crown attorney Mary Humphrey issued a brief statement outside the courthouse Thursday evening, saying, "We sought the truth in the case and justice was delivered swiftly."

She thanked the jury for its service.

Earlier, defence lawyer Jennifer Penman said her client was "disappointed" with the verdict and would likely file an appeal.

"I think there are a lot of questions about what went on that last night," Penman told reporters. 

During the trial, the defence had argued that Biddersingh's wife, Elaine Biddersingh, 54, drowned her stepdaughter because she disliked her and believed she was possessed by the devil.

Elaine Biddersingh faces her own first-degree murder trial, which is scheduled to get underway in April.

Melonie Biddersingh had come to Canada from Jamaica in pursuit of a better life. However, experts estimated that she weighed only 50 pounds and had 21 broken bones when she died.

She was often locked in the family apartment for hours, chained to furniture.

The Crown relied heavily on testimony from Elaine Biddersingh, as well as from Everton Biddersingh's son, Cleon. 

After Melonie died, Everton Biddersingh had claimed that his daughter had run away. In 2011, Elaine Biddersingh told her pastor about Melonie's death, and it was only then that the teen's remains were identified.

Victim impact statements and sentencing have been scheduled for Feb. 8.

With files from The Canadian Press