A former Delaware pediatrician has been sentenced to three years in prison for waterboarding the daughter of his longtime companion by holding her head under a faucet.
A judge also sentenced Melvin Morse to probation on Friday for other charges related to the girl’s abuse.
Morse’s attorney asked the judge for mercy, saying Morse is suffering from prostate cancer and other health conditions. But prosecutors said Morse deserved prison time for years of emotional and physical abuse of the girl.
Before he was sentenced, Morse turned to the girl, apologized and told her he hopes that one day she can forgive him.
The girl and her mother testified that Morse used waterboarding as a threat or punishment.
Defense attorneys said “waterboarding” was a term jokingly used to describe hair washing.
In documents obtained by the Associated Press in 2012, police said Dr. Melvin Morse brought the girl “to a possible near-death state from the simulation of drowning.”
Police accused Morse of holding the girl’s face under a running faucet causing the water to go up her nose and all over her face. In an affidavit seeking permission to search Morse’s computers, police said the waterboarding would fall into his area of study. Morse has received nationwide attention for his research into near-death experiences involving children.
Based on his work involving children’s out-of-body experiences, police have suggested he may have been experimenting on his daughter. In a review of one of his books by the American Library Association’s Booklist, Morse’s knowledge about the subject is accredited to “years of working with children who have had near-death experiences.”
Joe Hurley, an attorney for Morse said the idea that Morse was experimenting on his own daughter is “the sheerest of speculation.” Morse has said the charges against him stem from an overreaction by authorities.
Court records show Morse was tormented by personal and financial problems, but he was also known as a brilliant pediatrician at a renowned children’s hospital in Seattle and a best-selling author who parlayed his research on near-death experiences into appearances on “Larry King Live” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”