Phoenix police arrest former nurse after woman in vegetative state gives birth


Police in Arizona have made an arrest in connection with a woman who gave birth to a baby boy while in a vegetative state.

The 36-year-old suspect, Nathan Sutherland, was arrested after investigators obtained a DNA sample Tuesday, according to the Phoenix Police Department. Police said that they had determined that his DNA matched the baby’s DNA and he was booked into the Maricopa County Jail on Tuesday after being charged with one count of vulnerable adult abuse and one count of sexual assault.

Authorities said he was responsible for caring for the woman at the time of the alleged abuse that appears to have resulted in the pregnancy.

Sutherland had been a licensed practical nurse at Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix since 2011, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department announced in a press conference Wednesday.

He was identified as a person who had access to the victim in the case, and investigators obtained a DNA sample from him yesterday using a court order, police said. Sutherland was not working at the center at the time police retrieved the evidence.

After the birth, Hacienda Healthcare released a statement describing the incident as “deeply disturbing,” saying it would fully cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation.

Sources told Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO, which first reported the incident, that the woman had been a patient at the facility for at least 10 years after a near-drowning incident left her in a vegetative state. None of the staff was aware that she was pregnant, a source told the station.

After the patient gave birth, the facility was mandated to increase security and staff presence during interaction with patients and increase monitoring of patient care areas, the Arizona state Department of Health Services told ABC Phoenix affiliate KNXV earlier this month.

Additionally, another person is required to be in the room when male health-care aides provide treatment to female patients.

It was not immediately clear whether Sutherland has retained a defense attorney.

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