Man accused of waterboarding daughter
02:48 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The daughter claims her father held her face under the faucet

The 11-year-old said her father called it "waterboarding"

Morse specializes in near-death experiences in children and wrote a book about it

CNN  — 

A Delaware doctor and his wife were arrested this week after their daughter told authorities that she was punished by “waterboarding,” police said.

The 11-year-old girl said her father, pediatrician Melvin Morse, would hold her face under a running faucet causing the water to shoot up her nose, according to Delaware State Police.

The punishments occurred four times between 2009 and 2011.

Pauline Morse, the girl’s mother, apparently witnessed the abuse and failed to stop it, police said.

Attorneys for Pauline Morse could not be immediately reached for comment.

But Melvin Morse’s attorney said he doesn’t believe the allegations, though hasn’t yet spoken to his client about them.

“The guy is a caring sensitive individual,” said Joe Hurley, a Wilmington-based attorney. “It’s unimaginable that he would expose his child to that kind of danger. He’s very interested in caring for people. It doesn’t equate that he would do that to his own child.”

Morse has written on near-death experiences among children, authoring a 1991 book called “Closer to the Light.”

Pauline Morse faces charges of reckless endangerment, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child.

He was also interviewed by CNN’s Larry King about the subject, and runs a nonprofit called The Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness.

Authorities were first alerted to allegations of abuse in July when they went to Morse’s Georgetown home.

His daughter accused him of grabbing her by the ankle, dragging her across a gravel driveway and spanking her, police said. Morse was arrested four days later and posted bond.

But his attorney offered a different account of what transpired that day.

Hurley said the family returned from a trip when their daughter refused to get out of the car, sitting there for about four hours.

Morse then picked her up and carried her out of the car a short distance to the house, his attorney said.

“There was no dragging involved,” Hurley added.

The following morning, he said, she visited a friend’s house and recounted the incident there.

A phone call describing the alleged abuse was then apparently made to authorities, Hurley said.

It’s not clear who made the call.

But it was during a follow-up police interview with the child on Monday that she made the allegation that her father had “waterboarded” her as punishment, a term she said he used, according to police.

Morse and his wife were arrested Tuesday. Both face charges of reckless endangerment, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child, police said.

He is being held on $14,500 bail, while his wife was released after posting similar bail. Both were ordered to have no contact with their 11-year-old daughter or her 5-year-old sister, who are currently in protective custody.

Do you own your child’s body?

The Delaware Department of Justice issued an emergency petition Wednesday to have Morse’s medical license suspended.

The couple are expected to appear at a preliminary hearing in coming weeks.

CNN’s Jack Maddox, Susan Candiotti and George Lerner contributed to this report.