Nurse arrested in sexual assault of incapacitated woman at Phoenix facility

Bree Burkitt and Mackenzie Shuman and Craig Harris

PHOENIX – Phoenix police arrested a 36-year-old nurse at Hacienda HealthCare facility, alleging he sexually assaulted and impregnated an incapacitated woman at the center.

The woman gave birth to a boy Dec. 29. Staff members told a 911 operator that they had not known she was pregnant.

"From the minute we first became aware of the crime, we have virtually worked non stop seven days a week to resolve this case," Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said in announcing the arrest Wednesday morning.

Williams joined Mayor Thelda Williams at Phoenix police headquarters for an update on the case Wednesday. 

The nurse, Nathan Sutherland, is a licensed practical nurse who was primarily responsible for caring for the victim at the time of the assault, according to police. He's worked at Hacienda since 2011.

Exterior of Hacienda HealthCare, 1402 E. South Mountain Drive in Phoenix.

State records show he was first licensed as a clinical nursing assistant in 2005, before he became a licensed practical nurse.

The Phoenix police crime lab on Tuesday determined a DNA sample taken from Sutherland matched the baby. He was taken into custody the same day.

Police announced they would be testing the DNA of all employees during a Jan. 8 media briefing.

Phoenix Police Sgt. Tommy Thompson said police didn't have the opportunity to collect Sutherland's DNA through a court order until Tuesday.

Sutherland declined to answer investigators' questions after he was taken into custody, Tuesday, Thompson said.

Jan. 22: Doctor who cared for rape victim who gave birth at Phoenix nursing facility resigns, another suspended

Jan. 19: Rape victim who gave birth at Phoenix nursing facility is not in a coma, lawyer says

Sutherland was booked into Maricopa County Jail on Wednesday, charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse. Maricopa County Superior Court records show Sutherland has not been charged with any other major crimes.

Thompson said they are still working to determine whether Sutherland assaulted other victims inside the 60-bed facility.

Thompson said the baby was full-term and has since been released from the hospital.

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

According to court records, the woman, who is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, has been a patient at Hacienda for 26 years. The records say the woman is "not alert" and needs a "maximum level of care."

In the weeks since the 911 call calling for help after the child's birth, police and state agencies have launched investigations and the director of the facility resigned

Hacienda HealthCare also hired former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to conduct an independent investigation into patient safety.

Two physicians responsible for caring for the woman no longer are providing services at the Phoenix nursing facility.

Follow Bree Burkitt, Mackenzie Shuman and Craig Harris on Twitter: @breeburkitt, @MackenzieShuman and @charrisazrep

Opinion: An incapacitated woman is pregnant and no one notices? How does that happen?

Jan. 11: 'We had no idea this patient was pregnant': Nurse's 911 call details surprise birth

Jan. 9: Phoenix police: Finding incapacitated patient's rapist 'highest priority'

Jan. 8: Police seek DNA from male workers at Phoenix nursing facility where patient became pregnant

Jan. 8: Top executive of care facility resigns after patient in incapacitated state gives birth following apparent sex abuse

Jan. 4: Officials investigate apparent sex abuse after patient at facility for people with disabilities gives birth

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Nurse arrested in sexual assault of incapacitated woman at Phoenix facility