Nurse arrested in sex assault of woman in vegetative state who gave birth at nursing home

PHOENIX -- A nurse has been arrested in the sexual assault of an incapacitated woman who gave birth at a Phoenix nursing facility, Arizona police said Wednesday.

Nathan Sutherland, 36, was a licensed practical nurse at Hacienda Skilled Nursing Facility, where the woman gave birth.

The female patient had been in a vegetative state facility for at least 14 years after a near-drowning incident.

She stunned workers when she went into labor on Dec. 29 because they didn't know she was pregnant.

Police obtained a DNA sample from Sutherland on Tuesday. He was not working at the time.

He was responsible for caring for the victim and had access to her at the time of the incident.

On Jan. 22, authorities determined that Sutherland's DNA matched the baby's and he was detained.

He was booked in the Maricopa County Jail on one count of vulnerable adult abuse and one count of sexual assault.

Sutherland, wearing a T-shirt, black athletic pants and jacket, appeared in court Wednesday. A Maricopa County Superior Court commissioner ordered him released on a cash-only $500,000 bond. He also must wear an electronic monitoring device.

Nursing facility staff has said that none of them knew the woman was pregnant until she started giving birth.

"How were they alerted to the fact that she was going into labor?" asked KPHO reporter Briana Whitney.

"From what I've been told she was moaning. And they didn't know what was wrong with her," an employee said.

Hacienda officials said male employees are now required to have a female employee with them before entering a female patient's room.

Sources say the woman had no way to defend herself from the incident, and no way to communicate that she was pregnant.

Sutherland has worked with Hacienda Healthcare since 2011.

Officials say the incident is still under investigation.

Hacienda's website says they provide healthcare services to more than 2,500 people each year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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