A former Georgetown, Del., pediatrician has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and endangerment for allegedly ‘waterboarding’ his stepdaughter. Dr. Melvin Morse is represented by Delaware criminal defense attorney Joseph Hurley; his wife, who pleaded not guilty in October, is represented by public defender Dean Johnson. Both have been out on bail since their arrest.
Morse and his wife are facing charges after authorities allege Morse used a highly unusual method of discipline on his 11-year-old stepdaughter while his wife, Pauline Morse, 40, stood idly by. Dr. Morse was initially arrested on July 12 after neighbors called 911 to report an alleged incident in which state police say he dragged the girl by her ankle across a gravel driveway and into the house, where he spanked her. During an interview with social services Monday, the girl said that Morse had repeatedly punished her by holding her face under a running faucet, causing water to fill her nostrils, in a process he called “waterboarding.” The girl also told authorities that she didn’t understand what she had done wrong, and that Morse once told her that “she could go five minutes without brain damage.” After the “waterboarding,” the girl would cry outside, at which point Morse would allegedly cover her nose and mouth with his hand, not allowing her to breathe until she collapsed. According to police documents, he told her ”she was lucky he did not use duct tape.” The Morses were arrested at their home on August 7.
Dr. Morse has co-authored two books about near-death experiences in children and runs an organization called The Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. He has also written several articles on the subject, and, according to his website, has appeared on 20/20, Larry King, and the Oprah Winfrey show as an expert. On his website, Spiritual Scientific Inc., Morse discusses “spiritual neuroscience” and has a section called “lessons from the light,” which features several YouTube videos of people who claimed to have gained enlightenment following a near death experience. Morse speaks at length about the knowledge that one can gain from a near-death experience, admonishing readers, ”This is the spiritual reality. Don’t wait until death to learn the lessons of the near death experience.” Dr. Morse’s study appears to focus heavily on “the God spot,” a speculated singular area of the brain responsible for spirituality. According to a scientific study released this April, there is no single area of the brain that drives spiritual experience. On his website, Dr. Morse writes, “We all have a God Spot, an area in the brain that permits communication with a source of knowledge and wisdom outside our physical bodies…We use this God Spot to have near-death experiences, pray, have spiritual visions and experiences and in meditation. Mediums use it to access information in their work.” He sites a method called Controlled Remote Viewing, defined as “acquisition and description by mental means of information blocked from ordinary perception by distance, shielding, or time,” in which the subject purportedly accesses his or her “God spot” to draw or describe objects or places that would normally be unknown. This method, which Morse says was developed by the US Military in the 1980′s, does not appear to be published or described anywhere with the exception of numerous websites and documents focusing on the work of psychics and mediums. A family photos section of the site showcases several photos of a seemingly happy Morse family, coupled with this quote, attributed to Pauline Morse, “When we surround a situation with God’s love, time stops, and we connect to the source and solution to our problems.”
The Morses have a daughter together, aged five. She, along with the 11-year-old are in the custody of the Division of Family Services. The 5-year-old told authorities that the “waterboarding” treatment had never been done to her ”because she is too young for it.” Pauline Morse has three other children, who are adults and live separately. Both she and Dr. Morse are charged with four felony counts of first-degree reckless endangering, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and felony conspiracy. Dr. Morse is ordered to have no contact with his children or wife. Pauline Morse is also ordered to have no contact with her family, but has been trying to regain custody of the two youngest daughters since entering her not guilty plea.