Girl testifies stepfather's punishment made her fear she would die

by Reuters
Monday, 3 February 2014 21:11 GMT

By Lacey Johnson

GEORGETOWN, Del., Feb 3 (Reuters) - The stepdaughter of a Delaware pediatrician accused of "waterboarding" her as discipline testified at his trial on Monday that the punishment made her afraid she was going to die.

The 12-year-old girl took the witness stand for the first time in the case of Dr. Melvin Morse, a best-selling author on near-death experiences, who faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment and conspiracy.

He was arrested in 2012 after the girl, then 11, told authorities she had been waterboarded on four occasions.

Asked in court by prosecutor Melanie Withers to describe her stepfather's punishment, the girl replied: "Waterboarding."

She said he would hold her head in the sink and "run water up my nose so I couldn't breathe. I was scared, and I felt like I was going to die."

She said he waterboarded her once for accidentally spilling milk and another time for getting sick and vomiting.

"Once he put a trash bag over my head ... but it was only for a short period of time," she also testified.

Morse's defense lawyer, Joe Hurley, has said the girl, the daughter of Morse's now-estranged wife, had a long history of lying to adults, including counselors.

The defense attorney also has told the jurors at Sussex County Superior Court that his client was joking when he used the term "waterboarding" and that the incidents had been attempts to wash the girl's hair, an activity she hated.

Waterboarding, typically associated with the interrogation of terrorism suspects, involves forcibly holding a cloth over a person's face and flooding it with water to simulate drowning.

The girl also testified in court that Morse would punish her by locking her in her room and not allow her to use a bathroom, and she sometimes relieved herself in her toy box.

The girl's mother, Pauline Morse, who witnessed the incidents but did not intervene, was also arrested in the case.

She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in May and agreed to testify against Morse, 60, who heads the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and has appeared on "Oprah" and "Good Morning America."

(Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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