A licensed practical nurse has been arrested in the sexual assault of an incapacitated woman who was impregnated and gave birth while a patient at an Arizona nursing facility, police said.
Investigators have determined that Nathan Sutherland, 36, was responsible for caring for the victim when he allegedly sexually assaulted her at Hacienda HealthCare last year, Chief Jeri Williams said Wednesday.
The woman, a 29-year-old member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona, became pregnant as a result of the sexual assault, and on Dec. 29, gave birth to a baby boy.
“We owed this arrest to the victim [and] we owed this arrest to the newest member of our community, that innocent baby,” Williams said.
Sutherland’s arrest came after investigators determined he had access to and cared for the victim during the time she was assaulted. Phoenix police obtained a court order to take a DNA sample from Sutherland to compare against the DNA of the baby, and they were a match, Sgt. Tommy Thompson told reporters Wednesday.
Sutherland has worked at the facility since 2011.
"Every member of the Hacienda organization is troubled beyond words to think that a licensed practical nurse would be capable of seriously harming a patient," Hacienda HealthCare said in a statement obtained by KPNX-TV. "Once again, we offer an apology and send our deepest sympathies to the client and her family, to the community and to our agency partners at every level."
Sutherland held a current state of Arizona practical nurse's license and underwent an "extensive background check" upon his hiring, Hacienda said. He was terminated from his position at the facility upon his arrest, officials said.
"As we have since the first minutes of this police investigation, the Hacienda team will continue to cooperate with investigators from multiple agencies in every possible way," authorities said.
Sutherland faces one count of sexual assault and one count of abusing a vulnerable adult. After being taken into custody, he invoked his Fifth-Amendment rights and has not yet spoken to police, Thompson said.
Police are still working to determine how many times the victim was sexually assaulted, Thompson said.
There is no indication others at the facility were involved in the alleged assault, but Thompson said the investigation is ongoing. He also noted that should the families or caretakers of other patients bring to their attention concerns of other instances of abuse, they will take up those lines of investigation.
“We’re prepared to take this investigation wherever it goes,” Thompson said.
“She has significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood,” the family’s attorney, John Micheaels, said in a statement. “She does not speak but has some ability to move her limbs, head and neck. Their daughter responds to sound and is able to make facial gestures.
“The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities,” Micheaels continued. “She has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music, and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family.”
The woman’s baby is doing well and is believed to be out of the hospital, Thompson said.
In an earlier statement, Micheaels noted the infant had been born into “a loving family and will be well cared for.”
“We can't always choose how we come into this life, but what we can choose to do as a community is love this child, and that's what we have the opportunity to do,” Thompson said.