Waterboarding the daughter of his female partner is the accusation that has been leveled at Melvin Morse, a former doctor and pediatric specialist from Delaware.
It is alleged by the prosecution that Morse held the girl’s face under a faucet, and generally terrorized her over several years.
Deputy attorney general Melanie Withers, In her opening statements, depicted Morse as a brutal and domineering “lord and master.” She said that he abused the girl for years while her mother remained silent.
She told the court: “The defendant controlled every single aspect of that child’s life, including whether she had the right to draw breath.”
Morse’s attorney, Joseph Hurley, said that the girl and her mother, Pauline, have told many conflicting and false stories to authorities over the years; he claims there is no truth in the waterboarding allegations.
Indeed, according to Hurley, Pauline Morse herself told investigators that the so called waterboarding was simply hair-washing. She agreed that the girl resisted, and so it was sometimes threatened as a form of punishment.
Most importantly “There was no water on her face cutting off her breath,” the lawyer asserted.
Melvin Morse, 60, has pleaded not guilty to child endangerment and assault charges. He has categorically denied claims that he may have been experimenting on the girl.
Morse is the author of several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences, particularly involving children. He has appeared on “Larry King Live” and the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” explaining his research.
The allegations of waterboarding came after an incident in July 2012, in which Morse was accused of grabbing the girl by the ankle and dragging her across a gravel driveway. Her younger sister witnessed the event. He was charged with misdemeanor endangerment and assault charges, but released on bail.
The girl, then 11 years old, told investigators that Morse had disciplined her by holding her face under a running faucet at least four times since 2009. She said that he had called the punishment “waterboarding.”
Prosecutor Withers said the girl decided to run away after Morse dragged her across the driveway, threw her on her bed and spanked her. He threatened that she would be punished the next day like she never had been before.
Morse denied to the police that he had abused the girl, and explained that he was simply trying to get the struggling child into the house.
“She was kicking so much at times I dropped her,” Morse told an officer.
Morse also claimed that the unprecedented punishment he had threatened was simply telling the girl she would have to clean her room thoroughly, or he would throw away her Harry Potter books.
Over the years since, she has told Child Protection officials that she had been sexually molested by a female half-sibling, but made no mention that she was being waterboarded by Melvin Morse.
Her mother, Pauline, had agreed previously to plead guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges and to testify against Melvin Morse.
Hurley told the court that Pauline’s daughters are currently in foster care, but she is allowed to have supervised visits.
Unquestionably, this will be a difficult case for the jury, since much of the evidence is so contradictory.
Waterboarding her daughter – or simply washing her hair? Who can know?