DOVER, Del. — The daughter of a Delaware pediatrician who has appeared on national TV for his research on near-death experiences told investigators he “waterboarded” her several times by holding her face under a running faucet.
An attorney for Dr. Melvin Morse described the waterboarding description as an “attention-getter” by authorities, based on an allegation from an 11-year-old who had made a false abuse claim against a family member before.
“Whatever’s being described is not waterboarding,” said Joe Hurley, who has not spoken to Morse since Tuesday’s arrests. “I think that’s an attention-getter. I’m not sure where that came from or how that developed.”
Morse and his wife, Pauline, were charged with several felony counts Tuesday based on the daughter’s claims. Acting upon a complaint by the Delaware attorney general’s office, state officials on Thursday ordered the emergency suspension of Morse’s medical license.
Waterboarding simulates drowning and it has been used in the past by U.S. interrogators on terrorism suspects. Many critics call it torture.
Morse, who has authored several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences, has appeared on shows such as “Larry King Live” and the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to discuss his research, which also has been featured on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” and in an article in “Rolling Stone” magazine.
Morse’s Web site, http://spiritualscientific.com, is strewn with commentary about God, love, family and death.
At the time of Tuesday’s arrest, Morse, 58, was out on bail on misdemeanor charges of assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Those charges stemmed from a July incident in which authorities allege Morse grabbed the 11-year-old by the ankle and, as her 6-year-old sister watched, dragged her across a gravel driveway, took her inside the family’s home and began spanking her.
When she was interviewed again Monday, the older girl told investigators that beginning in 2009, her father had disciplined her by what he told her was “waterboarding.” State police said the girl was subjected to such punishment at least four times and that her mother witnessed some of the incidents but did not stop them.
Hurley, the attorney, said the 11-year-old has some “opposition issues” and had complained to her parents several years ago about being abused by a half-sibling. He said the parents contacted authorities and the half-sibling was arrested, but that the girl confessed months later that the incident never happened and that she just didn’t want the half-sibling living in the house.
Melvin Morse was being held Thursday on $14,500 secured bail. His wife was released previously on $14,500 unsecured bail. Both were ordered to have no contact with their two daughters or with each other. They face a preliminary hearing Aug. 16.
On the same day he was arrested on child endangerment charges July 13, Morse also was charged with terroristic threatening after allegedly threatening in May to kill a 65-year-old man. Hurley said he was told by a deputy attorney general that the terroristic threatening charge, which prosecutors dropped a week after it was filed, involved a New Castle County attorney. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office declined to comment.
On her Facebook page, Pauline Morse pleaded with reporters to respect her privacy.
“If you are media please stop coming to my house,” she wrote. “I do not wish to talk. I am extremely shy and I’m very upset and want to just be alone so I can gather myself together.”
According to his website, Morse received a medical degree from George Washington University in 1980 and worked in California, Idaho and Washington state before moving to Delaware.