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Nurse at Arizona health care center charged with sexual assault after incapacitated woman gives birth

Nathan Sutherland, 36, is being held on sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse charges.
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A nurse at a health care facility in Phoenix where an incapacitated woman gave birth in December has been arrested, police said Wednesday.

Nathan Sutherland, 36, was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse.

Wearing a T-shirt, black athletic pants and jacket, he appeared in court Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

A Maricopa County Superior Court commissioner ordered him released on a cash-only $500,000 bond on the condition that he must wear an electronic monitoring device, according to the AP.

Sgt. Tommy Thompson with the Phoenix Police Department said Sutherland was a licensed practical nurse at Hacienda HealthCare and "was responsible for providing care" to the woman around the time she became pregnant.

"This is a facility that you should be safe in and someone wasn't," Mayor Thelda Williams said at a news conference.

The woman's family said in a statement through their lawyer that they were aware of Sutherland's arrest but did not "wish to comment any further on this matter."

Nathan Sutherland
Nathan SutherlandMaricopa County Sheriff's Office

Thompson said Sutherland had been employed at Hacienda since about 2011.

In a statement Wednesday, the care center said that Sutherland was fired when they learned he had been arrested.

"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," the facility said. "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 arrest comes after a 29-year-old woman gave birth on Dec. 29 to a boy at Hacienda HealthCare, a long-term care center in Phoenix where she has been a patient for about 10 years.

In a statement Tuesday, the woman’s family said she is “not in a coma” but does have “significant intellectual disabilities” stemming from seizures she suffered early in her childhood.

"She does not speak but has some ability to move her limbs, head and neck,” the family said through their attorney. “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."

Police Chief Jeri Williams said officers were made aware of the pregnancy on Dec. 29 when they received a 911 call about a baby in distress.

Given the woman's condition, police began investigating the incident as a sexual assault. Thompson said during the investigation DNA samples from numerous male employees at the facility were requested and matched to DNA from the baby.

One of the samples collected came from Sutherland. On Tuesday, the police department's crime lab learned that Sutherland's DNA matched the baby's and he was taken into custody, police said.

Thompson told reporters that the baby "is doing good."

The woman’s caregivers were reportedly unaware she was pregnant until she went into labor. Hacienda HealthCare said Wednesday that it has "increased security measures to ensure the safety of all our patients."

"We also will continue to review and improve what is already an in-depth vetting process for caregivers at Hacienda. We will not tolerate any mistreatment of a Hacienda patient, nor will we stop until every Hacienda patient is as safe as we can make them," the company said.

The pregnancy led to one of the woman's physicians being suspended and another resigning. The facility's CEO, Bill Timmons, also resigned on Jan. 7.