GEORGETOWN, Delaware (Reuters) - A Delaware pediatrician accused of waterboarding his 11-year-old stepdaughter admitted in court on Tuesday to injuring the girl by dragging her over a gravel driveway in what he described as a moment of carelessness.
Dr. Melvin Morse, 60 years old and a best-selling author on near-death experiences, is standing trial on child endangerment charges dating back to July 2012 when police were called to his home over the driveway incident.
His stepdaughter, 11 at time, told authorities that Morse had waterboarded her on four occasions, which he has denied during his trial, now in its third week.
“Why did you drag her out of the car by her ankle?” state prosecutor Melanie Withers asked during cross-examination.
“I just reached in there and grabbed her,” replied Morse, who has appeared on “Oprah” and “Good Morning America.” “I did pull her out of the car roughly, carelessly.”
When the girl, whose name has been withheld due to her age, began screaming and kicking, Morse dropped her and proceeded to drag her across the gravel driveway, he recalled.
“I‘m sure I put marks on her,” he said at his trial in Sussex County Superior Court in Georgetown, Delaware. “I was careless.”
Withers also asked Morse why he had recorded videos of himself lecturing the girl and showed the court still photos of the child crying, which she said Morse had taken.
“Are you proud of the fact, now, that you took?” asked Withers.
“I‘m ashamed,” said Morse, who also admitted to slapping the girl more than once. “I‘m not a perfect person by any means.”
On Monday, Morse denied waterboarding the girl, the daughter of his now-estranged wife Pauline Morse, and said he had only been trying to wash her hair. Last week, the girl testified that she had feared for her life during the process.
Typically associated with the interrogation of terrorism suspects, waterboarding in general involves holding a cloth over a person’s face and flooding it with water to simulate drowning.
Morse said many of the parenting techniques presented as evidence against him, including the creation of a discipline journal and home videos of him lecturing the girl, were inspired by advice he received during family therapy sessions.
Under cross-examination by defense attorneys last week, the girl admitted to having said in previous sworn testimony that her older half-sister had sexually abused her twice, when there had been only one instance of molestation.
Last week, Pauline Morse testified that she had seen Morse holding her daughter under a faucet in the kitchen.
“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.”
Reporting by Lacey Johnson; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Toni Reinhold