Dr. Melvin Morse, 58, and his wife Pauline, 40, are seen in this combination of booking photos released by the Delaware State Police on Aug. 9, 2012. Credit: Reuters
A well-known Delaware doctor would punish his stepdaughter by making her stand for hours with her arms outstretched, depriving her of food and forbidding her from using the bathroom, the girl's mother told a court on Thursday.
Pauline Morse testified that she refrained from intervening in order not to undermine her celebrated husband, Dr Melvin Morse, a best-selling author on near-death experiences.
Melvin Morse is standing trial on child endangerment charges. He was arrested in 2012 after the girl, then 11, told authorities that she had been waterboarded on four occasions.
Pauline Morse told the court that she saw Morse holding her daughter under a faucet in the kitchen. When she appeared, Morose put down the girl, who then started coughing and crying.
"He called it 'washing her hair,' but I knew it wasn't washing her hair because there was no soap or anything," she said. "It didn't occur to me what was happening."
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.
The girl, not identified because she is a minor, admitted during cross examination on Tuesday that she had lied under oath about being molested by a family member in 2010.
Pauline Morse was also arrested for suspected child abuse. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in May and agreed to testify against Morse.
Morse's attorneys have said the girl had a history of lying to adults, including counselors.
Shortly after Morse was arrested and charged with child endangerment, he and his wife "talked about ways of trying to cover it up" while he was home on bail, Pauline Morse testified on Thursday.
Morse heads the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and has appeared on "Oprah" and "Good Morning America."