During opening statements on Tuesday, a prosecutor said former Delaware pediatrician, Melvin Morse, terrorized his female companion’s daughter for years. Some of the punishments meted out included waterboarding by holding her face under a faucet.
During Morse’s trial, deputy attorney general Melanie Withers described him as a harsh and despotic “lord and master” of his household. Withers said he had mistreated the girl for years as her mother silently accepted the abuse of her daughter.
Withers told jurors:
The defendant controlled every single aspect of that child’s life, including whether she had the right to draw breath.
An attorney for the defense, Joseph Hurley, explained to jurors that the daughter and her mother have many “conflicting and false stories” about what occurred over the years. He maintained that the waterboarding charges are unfounded lies. He claims the girl’s mother, Pauline Morse, said the alleged waterboarding was nothing more than a hair-washing that the girl didn’t like.
Since the girl didn’t like having her hair washed, it was used as a threat of punishment, Hurley said, adding, “There was no water on her face cutting off her breath.”
Morse, who is 60, has entered a not-guilty plea to child endangerment and assault charges. He has authored several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences involving children, according to the Associated Press. He adamantly denies claims by the police that he might have been experimenting on the girl.
The allegations of waterboarding were first brought to the attention of the authorities in July 2012, after Morse grabbed the girl by the ankle and dragged her across a gravel driveway. A younger sister is said to have witnessed this. Morse was arrested on misdemeanor endangerment and assault charges and released on bail.
The girl was 11 at the time and when interviewed by the police made the waterboarding claim. She alleges that Morse did this to her at least four times since 2009. The girl alleges that he held her face under a running faucet and called it waterboarding.
In a videotaped police interview shown to jurors Tuesday afternoon, Morse denied abusing the girl but recounted how he struggled to get the recalcitrant child into the house after the family arrived home from a trip to Montreal.