Delaware pediatrician Melvin Morse is currently standing trial to face accusations that he waterboarded his stepdaughter. Morse, 60, is accused of having held the girl’s face under a faucet several times in 2012. Morse previously pleaded not guilty to assault, conspiracy and child endangerment charges. Monday’s proceedings involved the selection of a 12-person jury to hear the case.
The original charges against Morse were filed in response to a July 2012 incident in which the girl, then 11, ran to a neighbor’s house claiming that Morse had dragged her by her ankle across a gravel driveway when she refused to get out of the car. Prosecutor Melanie Withers charged in court that Morse had actually kept the girl inside of a hot car for five hours before dragging her out and threatening her with severe punishment the next day. The next morning, the girl arrived at a neighbor’s house and appeared unkempt and frightened. Her friend’s mother noticed an odor on the girl and called the police. It was while being interviewed that the girl told police that since 2009, Morse had held her face under a faucet at least four times.
According to Deputy General Melanie Withers, Morse held the girl’s face under the kitchen faucet and ran the water into her mouth and nose, which in addition to causing her to vomit and choke, also caused her to be afraid for her life.
Delaware pediatrician Melvin Morse is being defended by Joe Hurley, who did not dispute at trial that the girl was under the faucet, claiming that because the victim did not like having her hair washed, it was often threatened or used as a punishment, which her family referred to as waterboarding. Hurley claims that the family used this term in jest. The defense also claimed that the girl had in the past lied about being abused by her half-sibling, saying that it could be indicative of a pattern of dishonesty by both the girl and her mother.
The girl’s mother, Pauline Morse, pleaded guilty in 2013 to misdemeanor child endangerment in exchange for agreeing to testify against her husband.
During the hearing, Morse was seen to shake his head at prosecution’s claims that he attempted to control every part of the girl’s life, forcing her to eat until she vomited, not allowing her to use the bathroom which caused her to soil herself, dragging her, and waking her by throwing cold water on her face. He admitted to threatening the girl with severe punishment, but explained that he had merely intended to confiscate her Harry Potter books and throw them away as well as to make her clean her room. When asked about the bruises and scratches that appeared on the girl’s back the morning after the car incident, Melvin Morse admitted that he had dropped the girl because she had been “kicking so much.”
Prosecutors intend to call the victim to the stand to testify on Wednesday.
Besides being a pediatrician, Melvin Morse, on trial in Delaware for allegedly waterboarding his stepdaughter, is known for running the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and writing several books regarding near-death experiences in children and paranormal experiences. He has been a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live and Good Morning America. His research has been featured in Rolling Stone and on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. He denies charges by police that he waterboarded his stepdaughter as research for his studies.
By Jennifer Pfalz