A US pediatrician who achieved national recognition for his research into near-death experiences involving children may have been experimenting on his 11-year-old stepdaughter by waterboarding her, police said in court documents.
The possible link between Melvin Morse’s research and the waterboarding allegations was revealed in an affidavit for a search warrant for Morse’s computers. The document was obtained on Tuesday by The Associated Press.
According to the affidavit, Melvin Morse brought the girl “to a possible near death state from the simulation of drowning.”
“This ‘waterboarding’ that he has performed ... would fall into the area of study he practices,” police said in the affidavit. “It is logical that he has therefore written about and/or researched the topic of ‘waterboarding.’”
Joe Hurley, an attorney for Morse, said the idea that Morse was experimenting on his own daughter is “the sheerest of speculation.”
Morse, who faces a preliminary hearing today on felony child endangerment and conspiracy charges, has authored several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences. He has appeared on Larry King Live and the The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss his research on out-of-body experiences. His Web site is strewn with commentary about God, love, family and death.
Morse said in a telephone interview on Monday that the charges against him are an overreaction from authorities who were criticized in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal involving another pediatrician.
Morse said he is the victim of “post-Bradley hysteria,” a reference to pediatrician Earl Bradley, who was convicted a year ago and is serving 14 life sentences for sexually abusing scores of his young patients over more than a decade.
Following Bradley’s arrest in December 2009, state officials ordered investigations into how he was allowed to continue practicing medicine for years despite suspicions that he was molesting his patients. Lawmakers passed several new laws toughening requirements for police, health care workers and others to report suspected child abuse.
The allegations of waterboarding came after Morse was accused of grabbing his 11-year-old stepdaughter by the ankle last month and, as her six-year-old sister watched, dragging her across a gravel driveway. He was arrested July 13 on misdemeanor endangerment and assault charges and released on bail.
When the older girl was interviewed last week, she told investigators that her father disciplined her by holding her face under a running faucet at least four times since 2009, a punishment that she said her father called “waterboarding.”
State police said the girl’s mother, Pauline Morse, witnessed some of the waterboarding, but did not stop it. She is also out on bail.
The couple were both charged with felony child endangerment and conspiracy.