GEORGETOWN, Del. — The stepdaughter of a well-known Delaware doctor accused of suffocating her as discipline testified Tuesday that he told her she could survive without air for "five minutes without brain damage."
"I thought, 'What if he lost track of time or something?' and I would die or something," the girl told jurors in Dr. Melvin Morse's child-endangerment trial.
Morse, a best-selling author on near-death experiences, faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment and conspiracy. He was arrested in 2012 after the girl, then 11, told authorities that in addition to other abuse, she had been waterboarded on four occasions.
"I threw up all my milk, and he waterboarded me in the bathtub. He just kept asking me if I was going to throw up again, and I said, 'No,'" she testified.
Prosecutor Melanie Withers said in opening arguments last week that the abuse included holding the girl face-up under a running kitchen faucet until she was unable to breathe.
Defense lawyer Joe Hurley said at the start of the trial that Morse was joking when he used the term "waterboarding" to describe what he was doing to the girl. He was trying to wash the girl's hair, an activity she hated, Hurley had said.
In a video of the girl being questioned at a children's advocacy center in August 2012, she said Morse, 60, also pulled her hair, pushed her against walls, hit her with a broom and suffocated her with his hands and through waterboarding.
The video also showed the girl telling a counselor how her half-sister, then 16, had recently molested her for a second time.
"That was a lie under oath, wasn't it?" asked Morse's attorney, Joe Hurley.
"Yes," the girl, now 12, replied. "The first time it was the truth, but then the second time that she did, it was a lie."
The girl said she didn’t want her half-sister, who was sent to a juvenile detention center for molesting her in 2007, to return to live with the family.
The girl's mother, Pauline Morse, has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in May and agreed to testify against Morse.
Morse heads the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and has appeared on "Oprah" and "Good Morning America."