SANTA CRUZ - A preliminary hearing began Monday in the case of a San Francisco man accused of taking inappropriate photographs of a young girl related to him.
Alexander Marcel Morisse, a 34-year-old Norwegian native, faces multiple felony charges stemming from photographs taken of the then-4-year-old girl last year.
Detective Sheralyn Padua of the Berkeley Police Department testified in front of Judge Rebecca Connolly that the girl's mother found a number of pictures of the child naked or partially undressed on a laptop Morisse had given the girl. The photographs had been taken in Santa Cruz, where the mother and daughter had lived before moving to Berkeley.
The photographs were reported in April.
Morrise's attorney, Kellin Cooper of Berkeley, questioned the prosecution's contention that the photographs were taken for sexual intent or purpose. He questioned Padua about statements Morisse had made to the police, in which he said the photographs were taken for educational purposes because she was very curious about her body.
"I was trying to facilitate her curiosity about her body in the best way I knew at that time," Morisse told police during the initial interviews.
The child's mother confirmed to police that her daughter was very curious about her body. She also told police that theirs was a household that was very comfortable with nudity, and the child was frequently without clothing at home, Padua
Morisse, who served as a graduate instructor at UC Santa Cruz while earning a doctorate in physics, sat next to his attorney dressed in a black suit and listened intently.
Padua's testimony was cut short Monday to allow a defense witness, who is flying back to Connecticut on Tuesday, to testify about Morisse's character. Eliza Braun said she met Morisse and the child's mother in 2004 through her husband, who attended graduate school with them.
"I cannot imagine any scenario for that to be true," Braun said when asked if she thought Morisse took the photographs for sexual purposes.
When Gilman showed her the pictures though, Braun said she wouldn't want someone taking similar photos of her own young daughter. She chalked it up to differences between her child-rearing philosophies and Morrise's.
"I don't think for a moment that his motives were ever inappropriate or sexual," she said.
Further testimony will continue Wednesday and Connolly will decide whether to take the case to trial.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter: @jmpasko96
©2012 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.)
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