Nurse arrested over Arizona care home patient pregnancy

Rozina Sabur
Nathan Sutherland was arrested after his DNA was matched to the baby - Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

A  nurse has been charged with rape after a severely disabled woman gave birth in care home in Arizona.

The 29-year-old victim stunned her caregivers and family when she gave birth to a baby boy late last month, sparking an investigation.

Nathan Sutherland, a 36-year-old licensed practical nurse, was arrested Wednesday on one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said.

Mr Sutherland was responsible for providing care to the victim during the time the assault occurred. He was arrested after his DNA was matched to that of the baby, Phoenix Police department said.

The 29-year-old victim, who police said "was not in a position to give consent", has been in the care of the Hacienda Health Care facility in Phoenix, Arizona since the age of three.    The victim's family described her as having "significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood".

Police collected DNA samples from male staff at the clinic Credit: CBS/Universal News And Sport (Europe)

While she does not speak, she has some mobility in her limbs, head and neck. She also responds to sound and can make facial gestures, the family said in a statement.  

The family's lawyer, John Micheaels, said the relatives were  "outraged, traumatised and in shock" at the assault. The child is now in the care of the patient's family.

Court documents state that the woman is "not alert" and requires a "maximum level of care", according to the Arizona Republic.

Staff at the facility said they had no idea she was pregnant and the case has triggered reviews by state agencies and highlighted safety concerns for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated. 

The CEO of the nursing facility resigned following the scandal and earlier this week the clinic announced that one of the victim's doctors had resigned and another has been suspended.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams announces the arrest of Nathan Sutherland Credit: AP

Police are still investigating whether Mr Sutherland, who has worked at the facility since 2011, has assaulted any other patients and are encouraging anyone with information to come forward.

Tommy Thompson, a spokesman for Phoenix Police, said the baby boy was "doing good".

"We can't always choose how we come into this life, but what we can choose to do as a community is love this child, and that's what we have the opportunity to do," he said.

The force said the case had become "the highest priority of our police department".  

In a press conference yesterday, Ms Williams said she had not encountered a similar case during her 30-year-career in law enforcement. 

"We owed this arrest to the victim. We owed this arrest to the newest member of our community - that innocent baby," the police chief added.