Nathan Sutherland pled guilty Thursday to sexually assaulting an incapacitated patient at the Hacienda Healthcare facility in Phoenix. The former Arizona nurse also pled guilty to a charge of abuse of a vulnerable adult. It’s not clear what his punishment will be. The sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 4.
According to reports, the woman Sutherland sexually abused has a brain disorder that impairs her cognitive and motor functions. Her medical conditions have caused her to lose her vision and the function of her limbs. She lived at the healthcare facility for 26 years before she inadvertently gave birth to a child.
The strange phenomenon had healthcare workers baffled. Nurses did not realize she was pregnant and only found out she was having the baby as she was delivering it in Dec. 2018. According to reports, an employee was changing the victim’s clothes when they noticed the woman was giving birth. A DNA test revealed that Nathan Sutherland was the father. The then 29-year-old woman had been unable to consent.
Currently, the baby is being cared for by the victim’s mother, who later sued the suspect and the Hacienda Healthcare facility. The lawsuit accused the facility of negligently allowing Nathan Sutherland to care for the incapacitated woman from 2012 to 2018 despite an agreement that only women were to be allowed to look after her.
The Phoenix facility, which provides advanced healthcare services for people with developmental disabilities, had failed to identify that the woman was pregnant despite clear warning signs. Employees failed to recognize the woman was carrying a child, despite her gaining weight. The woman also reportedly had a swollen belly and had missed menstrual periods leading up to the delivery – signs the employees completely disregarded.
Because of the negligence, the family’s lawyer insisted that the incapacitated woman felt many ill effects. For example, the woman was forced to deliver the boy while dehydrated and without pain medications – a traumatic experience for any woman. It was also said that the woman had been given less food because she had gained weight, causing nutritional defects.
Nathan Sutherland was a licensed practical nurse who worked at the Hacienda Healthcare facility. He was subsequently fired and forced to give up his nursing license. It was suggested that he sexually abused the incapacitated woman during overnight shifts because fewer staff members and visitors would be around.
After the delivery in December 2018, the chief executive and one of the victim’s doctors – who had cared for the woman for 26 years – were forced to resign.
A judge ruled that the doctor must pay a $15 million settlement to the victim’s family, though his insurance provider claimed it has no obligation to pay it. The state of Arizona was forced to settle last summer for $7.5 million, having contracted the Hacienda facility to provide care for those with developmental disabilities.
Previously, Nathan Sutherland asked the judge to throw away the DNA evidence that linked him and the baby boy. That evidence proved that he had a sexual relationship with the woman despite her inability to consent. Sutherland’s attorney claimed the Phoenix police officers did not get a warrant for the DNA test and did not have probable cause to take Sutherland’s DNA.
The lawyer, Edwin Molina, claimed that “anybody and everybody could be a suspect” in the disturbing crime and that the request for the court order misrepresented data. According to reports, the court order sought the DNA of 36 male employees from Hacienda Healthcare, claiming they had direct access to the victim.
Molina argued that the police had no idea what the job duties of those men were and thus the judge should throw out the DNA evidence that linked his client with the crime. The judge did not throw out the evidence, forcing Sutherland to plead guilty Thursday.