Police Arrest Former Nurse For Rape Of Woman Who Gave Birth While In a Vegetative State

Nathan Sutherland, a former nurse, has been arrested for allegedly raping a coma patient in his care.

January 23, 2019

Nathan Sutherland [Maricopa County Sheriff's Office]

Nathan Sutherland [Maricopa County Sheriff's Office]

By: Catherine Townsend

Phoenix police have announced the arrest of the former Hacienda HealthCare nurse who allegedly raped a coma patient in his care. The woman gave birth to a boy on December 29, 2018 while she was in a persistent vegetative state. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said at a news conference that 36-year-old Nathan Sutherland was arrested, but then later released on $500,000 bail bond. Sutherland will be charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.

Staff at the Phoenix facility told a 911 operator that they had not been aware that the woman was pregnant until very shortly before she gave birth. "From the minute we first became aware of the crime, we have virtually worked nonstop seven days a week to resolve this case," Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said at a press conference on Wednesday. Authorities reportedly did DNA tests with male staffers, and after having to file a court order to submit Sutherland to a DNA test they found that he was a match. Police say that Sutherland is a licensed practical nurse who has worked at the facility since 2011. He was responsible for caring for the victim at the time of the alleged assault. Hacienda HealthCare officials say Sutherland went through an "extensive background check" when he was hired, according to AZCentral.

Hacienda HealthCare released the following statement: “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."

Sutherland is being held on $500,000 bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for January 30. Police say that the baby boy is healthy and "doing well."

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