Nurse Charged With Rape of Disabled Arizona Woman Who Gave Birth
A licensed practical nurse was arrested in Phoenix after his DNA was found to match with that of a baby born to an incapacitated woman previously in his care.
An Arizona male nurse, 36, who was supposed to be looking after a severely disabled woman at a long-term health care facility has been charged with raping her, a crime that came to light only after she gave birth to a baby boy, Phoenix police said Wednesday.
Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse, was arrested by investigators who linked him to the case through DNA evidence after the woman, who is in her 20s, unexpectedly gave birth on Dec. 29 at Hacienda Healthcare Skilled Nursing Facility in Phoenix where she had been a resident for nearly a decade following a near-drowning incident that left her disabled.
“We owed this arrest to the victim. We owed this arrest to the newest member of our community – that innocent baby,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said, adding that the case was solved through a combination of DNA and “good old fashioned police work.”
“From the minute we first became aware of this crime, a sexual assault, we have worked virtually non-stop every day, every night, seven days a week trying to solve and resolve this case.”
Sutherland, who began working at Hacienda Healthcare in 2012, was charged with one count each of sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail during a brief appearance in Maricopa County Superior Court. He also must wear an electronic monitoring device.
#LIVE: Nathan Sutherland, 36, is appearing in court. He is accused of sexually assaulting and impregnating an incapacitated woman at Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix. She gave birth to the baby in December. Police say his DNA matched with the baby boy's DNA. https://t.co/Mzi8mSZ0wP pic.twitter.com/oIo5ULMyuQ— FOX 10 Phoenix (@FOX10Phoenix) January 23, 2019
Sutherland declined to speak with police and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, police spokesman Tommy Thompson said.
The facility said in a written statement that Sutherland was fired as soon as administrators learned of his arrest. The company said it was “troubled beyond words.”
“Before he started work with Hacienda, he underwent extensive background checks, including an extended criminal history search; a search of multiple government registries, including sex offender registries and Arizona Department of Economic Security and Child Protective Services registries; and checks of his personal references,” the statement said.
As there’s no direct evidence against Sutherland, who had no criminal history, the defense plans to conduct its own DNA tests, the man’s attorney Dave Gregan said during the hearing.
The woman – whose identity is being protected – has been disabled since the age of 3 as a result of seizures and spent most of her life in Phoenix’s Hacienda Healthcare.
The victim’s family issued a statement through their attorney John Micheaels on Tuesday, saying they “would like to make clear that their daughter is not in a coma,” ABC News reported. The statement explained that the woman “does not speak but has some ability to move her limbs, head and neck.”
“The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities,” they said.
Employees said they had no idea she was pregnant until she went into labor, police say, and were first alerted to the case when the baby was born. The baby, a boy who is being cared for by family members, is doing well, police said.
Hacienda Healthcare issued a statement saying, “Once again, we offer an apology and send our deepest sympathy to the client and her family. Hacienda intends to do everything possible to restore its credibility in the eyes of our patients, families, the community and our agency partners at every level.”
Investigators obtained court-ordered DNA samples from the male staff at the facility in order to find a DNA link to the infant in order to identify who allegedly raped the patient.
On Tuesday, authorities obtained a sample from 36-year-old Nathan Sutherland, an LPN who had access to the woman during the time she fell pregnant.
Days after news broke of the incapacitated patient giving birth, Hacienda Healthcare CEO Bill Timmons tendered his resignation to the board.
Earlier this week, KPHO-TV reported that two physicians who had been responsible for the woman’s care were no longer at the facility, with one resigning and another being suspended by the company.
The Arizona state Department of Health Services told KNXV-TV that the facility has been required to increase security and staff presence after the assault was discovered, and another person is now required to be present in the room when male health-care aids administer care to female patients.