GEORGETOWN, Del. (AP) â€” A girl who claims she was waterboarded by her mother’s companion, a former pediatrician, told a Delaware jury on Monday the man held her face under a running faucet several times as punishment.
Swiveling back and forth in the witness chair and smiling at times, the 12-year-old recounted how Melvin Morse, who she learned only recently was not her father, punished her in a variety of ways, including waterboarding and putting his hands over her nose and mouth.
The girl said Morse used the term waterboarding, and she was punished for spilling milk, shaking a ketchup bottle and vomiting into a cat’s litter box after being made to eat too much.
“Sometimes I think I heard him yell ‘Die!'” she said, describing the waterboarding.
Waterboarding simulates drowning and it has been used in the past by U.S. interrogators on terror suspects. Many critics call it torture.
Morse, 60, is facing endangerment and assault charges. Defense attorney Joseph Hurley told has jurors that the girl and her mother, Pauline, have told many conflicting and false stories to authorities over the years and that the waterboarding charges are unfounded.
Morse has authored several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences involving children. He 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.
He has specifically denied police claims that he may have been experimenting on the girl.
The girl testified she ran away from home in July 2012, following an incident that led to Morse’s arrest.
Morse was accused of grabbing the girl by the ankle and dragging her across a gravel driveway into the family’s home. He was arrested, and when the girl was interviewed, she told investigators that Morse also had disciplined her at least four times by waterboarding, leading to additional charges against Morse and the girl’s mother, Pauline Morse.
Pauline Morse agreed last year to plead guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges and to testify against Melvin Morse. Defense attorneys have suggested that Pauline is cooperating with authorities in an attempt to regain custody of the girl and her younger sister, who remain in foster care but are allowed supervised visits with their mother.
The 12-year-old girl on Monday recounted how she decided to run away the morning after the driveway incident, saying Morse had punished her that night and had warned her “there will be more.”
“I was scared he was going to hurt me…. I thought he meant, like, more pain,” she said.
Prosecutors have introduced photographs of scratches and bruises on the girl, but she said Monday that several of them came from a bicycle as she pushed it along the road when she ran away from home.
Jurors were shown four homemade videos documenting Morse’s encounters with the girl about her behavior.
In the first video, Morse repeatedly asked why she doesn’t try to “fix the damage” after she misbehaves.
“Why don’t you try to repair things when you do something wrong, sweetheart?” he calmly asked the girl.
In another video, Morse asked the girl why she couldn’t recognize that it was “a major crime” to break the rules of the house.
“Has your therapist ever told you that you have to obey your parents?” he asked the girl, who responds affirmatively.
“It kind of gets on my nerves the way he talked to me,” she testified Monday when asked about the video.
The girl also said Morse gave her antidepressants and kept a “behavior book” in which he added or subtracted points to determine her disciplinary “level.”
Level One included no television, no allowance and not being allowed to eat with the family. Level Two allowed her to eat with the family; Level Three allowed her to choose what kind of sandwich she wanted for lunch. The girl said she never made it to Level Four.
The girl also said Morse subjected her to other punishment, including being forced to stand with arms outstretched and her head against a wall, and being confined to her room without access to the bathroom, forcing her to wet herself or use her toy box as a toilet.
“I tried to stay out of his way so he wouldn’t see me and remember something and make me do stuff,” she said.
The girl also acknowledged that she twice attempted to contact Morse after his arrest, including sending him an email in December 2012.
“Are you okay. I’m okay. I accept all apologies,” she wrote.
In a voicemail, the girl told Morse she missed him.
“I was confused and I was wondering if he was feeling the same way,” she explained. “… I just kind of wanted to say hello and I miss you.”