A former nurse in Arizona has pleaded guilty to raping an incapacitated woman in his care and fathering her son. Nathan Sutherland accepted a deal on Thursday for a count each of sexual assault, and abuse of a vulnerable adult, according to The Arizona Republic.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 4. The sentencing range for the first charge is 5.25 to 10 years in prison, while the abuse charge has a lifetime of probation, said Maricopa County Attorney’s Office spokesperson Jennifer Liewer.
The woman, then a 29-year-old at a Hacienda Healthcare facility in Phoenix, Arizona, gave birth on Dec. 29, 2018.
As indicated in the 911 call, caregivers at the facility claimed they didn’t know about the woman’s pregnancy until she was giving birth to a baby boy.
“The baby’s turning blue!” said a female staffer identified as a nurse, in frantic 911 audio. “Baby’s turning blue! Baby’s turning blue!”
The child was reportedly said to be fine.
“The family would like me to convey that the baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for,” said lawyer John Micheaels, an attorney for the woman’s family, according to CNN in 2019.
The incident sparked an investigation from the Phoenix Police Department, who later arrested Sutherland, a male nurse the facility. He was fired. The woman’s parents sued Arizona and two of her doctors, saying they asked for only women to take care of her but that Sutherland was allowed to do so for years.
An attorney for the family has disputed the characterization that the woman was in a coma. Nonetheless, he described her as being in significantly vulnerable condition.
“The victim’s parents would like to make clear that their daughter is not in a coma,” Micheaels said, according to KGUN9. “She has significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood … 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.”
After Sutherland’s arrest in 2019, parents of other Hacienda patients voiced shock.
“He was very loving, very compassionate,” Angela Gomez told KPHO. “Or he pretended to be. And I really trusted him. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that he would be the suspect that the PD was looking for. I suspected others, but I was wrong, and he fooled everybody.”
[Booking photo via Phoenix Police Department]
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