Nurse charged with sexual assault after woman in vegetative state gives birth

PHOENIX — Police arrested a 36-year-old nurse Wednesday on suspicion of sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult after a woman who had been incapacitated for years gave birth to a child last month.

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Police Chief Jeri Williams said Nathan Sutherland was being booked into Maricopa County Jail on Wednesday.

Williams said Sutherland was caring for the victim as a licensed practical nurse at Hacienda HealthCare before the victim gave birth to a boy on Dec. 29.

"Our information was that he was employed and did work at that facility since about 2011," Sgt. Tommy Thompson told reporters Wednesday at a news conference.

Sgt. Tommy Thompson provides an update on a sexual assault investigation.

Posted by City of Phoenix Police Department on Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Williams said Sutherland was arrested after police tested a DNA sample taken from him by court order. Police earlier said they were collecting DNA from all male employees at Hacienda HealthCare, a long-term care facility.

The 29-year-old victim has been incapacitated since the age of 3, according to The Associated Press. Thompson said earlier this month that she was "unable to move, she was unable to communicate." However, in a statement released to KNXV-TV on Tuesday, her family's attorney disputed reports that she was in a coma.

"She has significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood," the statement said. "The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family."

Employees at Hacienda said they had no idea she was pregnant before she gave birth on Dec. 29.

Thompson said Tuesday that the baby was in good condition, despite the circumstances surrounding his birth.

"I would just say that we can't always choose how we came into this life, but we can choose as a community to love this child," Thompson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.