First arrest at a health care facility after woman in a vegetative state gives birth

A 36-year-old man from Phoenix was arrested in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a woman in a long-term incapacitated state. 

Nathan Sutherland was charged with one count of sexual assault, and one count of vulnerable adult abuse, the Chief of Police in Phoenix confirmed. 

A 29-year-old woman – who had been at the Hacienda HealthCare facility since 1992 – gave birth in December 2018.

While she is not in a coma, she "has significant disabilities and cannot move or speak. Her family said she "has feelings, likes to be read to, and enjoys soft music."

"The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities."

Personnel at the facility alerted authorities when they realized she was pregnant. Sutherland was linked to the case after DNA samples were collected from male staff. 

Sgt. Tommy Thompson told reporters: “Sutherland was a licensed practical nurse, or an LPN, who was responsible for providing care to the victim during the time this sexual assault occurred.”

He added: "This woman was unable to move; she was unable to communicate. In other words, she was helpless. This started as a sexual assault investigation from day one."


Sutherland's employment history at Hacienda dates back to 2012 after he completed his licensed practical-nurse training the year before. 

His license does not expire until 2020, and Sutherland had not felony charges linked to his name when he applied for the position. 

The facility runs extensive background checks on prospective employees, but nothing in Sutherland's file raised the alarm. 

He was fired earlier this week, soon after the Hacienda management team learned of his arrest and the charges brought against him. 


Sutherland's wife filed for divorce after seven years of marriage. The couple parted ways three weeks before the victim gave birth. 

She requested that her whereabouts remain confidential for fear that Sutherland's ex-wife and mother would track her down. 

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