Girl testifies stepdad doc 'waterboarded' her for vomiting milk

by Reuters
Tuesday, 4 February 2014 19:06 GMT

By Lacey Johnson

GEORGETOWN, Del., Feb 4 (Reuters) - The stepdaughter of a well-known Delaware doctor accused of suffocating her as discipline testified on Tuesday that he told her she could survive without air for "five minutes without brain damage."

"I thought, what if he lost track of time or something, and I would die or something," the girl told jurors in Dr Melvin Morse's child-endangerment trial.

Morse, a best-selling author on near-death experiences, 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 that in addition to other abuse, she had been waterboarded on four occasions.

"I threw up all my milk, and he waterboarded me in the bathtub. He just kept asking me if I was going to throw up again, and I said 'no,'" she testified.

Prosecutor Melanie Withers said in opening arguments last week that the abuse included holding the girl face-up under a running kitchen faucet until she was unable to breathe.

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

Defense lawyer Joe Hurley said at the start of the trial that Morse was joking when he used the term "waterboarding" to describe what he was doing to the girl. He was trying to wash the girl's hair, an activity she hated, Hurley had said.

In a video of the girl being questioned at a children's advocacy center in August 2012, she said Morse, 60, also pulled her hair, pushed her against walls, hit her with a broom and suffocated her with his hands and through waterboarding.

She testified on Monday that Morse also gave her anti-depression medication to make her "behave better."

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

The girl's mother, Pauline Morse, was also arrested. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in May and agreed to testify against Morse.

Morse heads the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and has appeared on "Oprah" and "Good Morning America." (Editing by Ian Simpson and Amanda Kwan)

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