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A Nurse Has Been Arrested For Allegedly Raping A Woman With "Significant Intellectual Disabilities" Who Gave Birth

Nathan Sutherland, 36, was still working at the Hacienda Healthcare facility in Phoenix when his DNA was found to match that of the patient's baby, police said.

Last updated on January 24, 2019, at 1:02 p.m. ET

Posted on January 23, 2019, at 12:47 p.m. ET

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

A licensed nurse responsible for the care of a Phoenix woman with significant intellectual disabilities who gave birth to a boy has been arrested after a DNA test revealed he was the father, police said.

Nathan Dorceus Sutherland, 36, was booked into Maricopa County Jail on Wednesday and charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.

"When the incident occurred, he was responsible for care of the victim," police spokesperson Sgt. Tommy Thompson told reporters.

Investigators matched Sutherland's DNA to the child's on Tuesday and he was taken into police custody the same day. At the time of his arrest, Sutherland was still an employee of Hacienda Healthcare working at the longterm skilled nursing facility where he allegedly committed the assault.

"Nathan Sutherland, who held a current state of Arizona practical nurse’s license and who had undergone an extensive background check upon hiring, was terminated from Hacienda the moment our leadership team learned of his arrest," Hacienda Healthcare said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "Every member of the Hacienda organization is troubled beyond words to think that a licensed practical nurse could be capable of seriously harming a patient. 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."

The investigation remains ongoing and investigators have not yet determined if the woman was raped more than once or if any other patients at the facility have been sexually assaulted.

"That would be one of our concerns," Thompson said.

The whistleblower responsible for bringing the case to light told AZFamily, the Phoenix CBS affiliate that broke the story, that Hacienda implemented new policies in the week following the birth — among them, a rule that male staffers are no longer allowed in female patients’ rooms unless they were accompanied by a woman coworker.

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The 29-year-old woman gave birth to a boy on Dec. 29. Paramedics were called to the facility moments after the delivery, and the 911 recording released by police showed that facility staffers were in shock and had no idea she had been pregnant.

Court documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show the woman has been incapacitated for 26 years and in Hacienda’s care since she was 3 years old.

Although earlier stories described the patient as being in a vegetative state, on Tuesday, the woman's family issued a statement through their lawyer disputing that characterization.

"The victim’s parents would like to make clear that their daughter is not in a coma. She has significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood," the family said. "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. She has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music, and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family."

BuzzFeed News generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe said in a statement earlier this month that the patient is an enrolled member of the tribe. Court records indicate that the woman’s mother lives on the reservation, roughly 120 miles from Phoenix, and has reportedly visited her daughter twice a month since becoming her legal guardian in 2009.

A representative for the victim's family declined to comment on Sutherland's arrest.

Police said Wednesday that the baby boy has been released from the hospital is being cared for by his maternal family.

"I'm pleased to say that the baby is doing quite well," Thompson said. "I'm led to believe the baby is out of the hospital. We can't always choose how we come into this life, but we can choose as a community to love this child — and that's what we have the opportunity to do."

UPDATE

The woman who gave birth to the child has "significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood," her family said in a statement on Jan. 22. A previous version of this article reported she was in a vegetative state and the language has been updated to reflect the family's statement.


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