GEORGETOWN, Del. (WBOC/AP)- A Georgetown pediatrician and his wife have been charged with recklessly endangering their two daughters, including the use of a form of discipline that police say the man called "waterboarding."
Melvin L. Morse, 58, and Pauline L. Morse, 40, are each charged with four counts of first-degree reckless endangering (felony), second-degree conspiracy (felony) and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child (misdemeanor).
Police said the arrests stemmed from an investigation that got under way after detectives were notified about a domestic assault incident that occurred on July 12, in which Melvin Morse grabbed his 11-year-old daughter by the ankle and began dragging her across a gravel driveway at their home. According to investigators, Melvin Morse then brought the child inside the home and began spanking her. Morse was arrested on July 16 and charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of third-degree assault in connection with the alleged incident. He was later released after posting $750 secured bail.
Troopers said that on Aug. 6, the 11-year-old was brought to the Child Advocacy Center where she was interviewed. According to police, the girl informed detectives that over the course of a two-year period, beginning in May 2009, she was disciplined by her father by what he called "waterboarding." Police said this act was performed on her by her father holding her face under a running faucet, causing the water to go up her nose and all over her face. This form of punishment was used on her no less than four different occasions, investigators said.
"I believe if there's a need to punish a child, punish your child but don't torture your child," said Charity Truitt, who lives in the same neighborhood as the Morse family.
"Going overboard and dragging, trying to drown a kid, that's too far," added neighbor Daniel Ramseur Jr. "That is too far and in my opinion, the guy should be locked up without bail."
Police said the victim's mother, Pauline Morse, witnessed a few of these incidents and failed to stop Melvin from performing the act.
Melvin Morse operates a pediatric practice in Milton, and is also known around the world for his research on near-death experiences. Police said state medical regulators have been notified about the arrests.
"I heard about this similar happening in Lewes with the doctor there and now, to have somebody just down the street do something like that to a young kid, it's ridiculous," remarked Ramseur.
Yvonne Dodd, of La Red Health Center in Georgetown, has spent 30 years in social work and says she has never heard of a cast like this. According to Dodd, Dr. Morse's daughter will likely suffer for the rest of her life.
"The definition of trauma is usually when someone's in fear of their life for themselves or someone that they love, so if that caused trauma, which that probably caused trauma in her, she'll be living with those effects for a long time," she said.
Melvin and Pauline Morse were arrested at their home on Aug. 7 and brought back to Troop 4 where they were booked on the aforementioned charges. Melvin Morse was ordered held on $14,500 secured bail. He was issued a no contact order with either of the children and Pauline. Pauline Morse was released on $14,500 unsecured bail was ordered to have no contact with either of the children or Melvin.
The children are currently in the care of Division of Family Services, police said.
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