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Nurse at Arizona health facility pleads not guilty in sexual assault of incapacitated women

Investigators were able to identify Nathan Sutherland through DNA testing.
Image: Hacienda Healthcare
Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix.Ross D. Franklin / AP

The nurse charged with sexually assaulting an incapacitated patient who gave birth at a Phoenix health care facility pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

Nathan Sutherland, 36, was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse on Jan. 23 after an unidentified woman, 29, went into labor at the long-term care center where she has been a patient for about 10 years.

Authorities began investigating the case as a sexual assault after learning the woman was nonverbal, incapable of moving on her own and, according to her lawyer, has "no capacity to resist or even cry out."

The Phoenix Police Department said during the investigation that DNA samples from numerous male employees at the facility were requested, and that the sample from Sutherland matched the baby's DNA.

Image: Nathan Sutherland
Nathan SutherlandMaricopa County Sheriff's Office

Sutherland, who had been an employee of Hacienda HealthCare since 2011, was fired shortly after the facility learned of his arrest.

He is being held in Maricopa County Superior Court on a cash-only $500,000 bond.

Sutherland was a licensed practical nurse at Hacienda HealthCare and provided care to the woman around the time she became pregnant, police said.

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

Hacienda's CEO, Bill Timmons, resigned on Jan. 7 and a doctor also resigned last month, the facility announced. Another doctor was suspended.

Sutherland is due back in court on March 19.