By Randall Chase
DOVER, Delaware — The daughter of a U.S. doctor who has appeared on national TV for his research on near-death experiences told investigators he "waterboarded" her several times by holding her face under a running faucet.
An attorney for Dr. Melvin Morse called that description an "attention-getter" by authorities, based on an allegation from an 11-year-old who had made a false abuse claim against a family member before.
"Whatever's being described is not waterboarding," Joe Hurley said. Waterboarding simulates drowning, and it has been used in the past by U.S. interrogators on terrorism suspects. Many critics call it torture.
Morse and his wife, Pauline, were charged with several felony counts Tuesday based on the daughter's claims.
Morse has written several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences.
At the time of his arrest, Morse, 58, was out on bail on misdemeanor charges of assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Those charges relate to a July incident in which authorities allege Morse grabbed the 11-year-old by the ankle and, as her 6-year-old sister watched, dragged her across a gravel driveway, took her inside the family's home and began spanking her.
When she was interviewed again Monday, the older girl told investigators that beginning in 2009, her father had disciplined her by what he told her was "waterboarding." State police said the girl was subjected to such punishment at least four times and that her mother witnessed some of the incidents but did not stop them.
Hurley, the attorney, said the 11-year-old has some "opposition issues" and had complained to her parents several years ago about being abused by a half-sibling. He said the parents contacted authorities and the half-sibling was arrested, but that the girl confessed months later that the incident never happened and that she just didn't want the half-sibling living in the house.
Melvin Morse was being held Thursday on $14,500 secured bail. His wife was released previously on $14,500 unsecured bail. Both were ordered to have no contact with their two daughters or with each other. They face a preliminary hearing Aug. 16.
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Copyright 2012 Associated Press