Devout Christian care home nurse who impregnated quadriplegic woman in vegetative state pleads guilty to sexual assault
- Former licensed nurse Nathan Sutherland pleaded guilty to sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult
- Sutherland was accused of impregnating a 29-year-old patient in vegetative state at Hacienda Healthcare long-term health facility in Phoenix
- Abuse came to light in December 2018 when victim delivered a baby boy, even though staff said they did not know she was pregnant
- Police tested Sutherland’s DNA and found it matched sample from the baby
Former licensed nurse Nathan Sutherland on Thursday pleaded guilty to sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult for impregnating a woman in a vegetative state in 2018
A former nurse at an Arizona long-term care facility has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a female patient in a vegetative state, who later became pregnant and gave birth to a boy.
The pregnancy was discovered in December 2018 when an employee at the Hacienda Healthcare facility in Phoenix was changing the then-29-year-old victim and noticed she was in labor.
Employees told police that they had no idea the woman, who is quadriplegic and mentally disabled, was pregnant.
Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse at the care home, was arrested in January 2019 after police collected DNA from all 36 male staff members at his workplace, and his sample matched the victim’s son.
On Thursday, Sutherland pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult. He is due back in court for a hearing on October 4, followed by his sentencing on November 4.
The surprise birth triggered reviews by state agencies, highlighted safety concerns for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated, and prompted the resignations of Hacienda’s chief executive and one of the victim’s doctors.
Sutherland, pictured in court in 2019, is scheduled to be sentenced in November
The victim had be a patient at Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix for 26 years. Her medical conditions stem from a brain disorder that caused motor and cognitive impairments and vision loss
It led to a lawsuit from the victim’s parents that alleged Sutherland had cared for their daughter on hundreds of occasions from 2012 through 2018, despite promises from the state — which contracts with companies like Hacienda to provide services to people with developmental disabilities — that only women would tend to her.
An expert on behalf of her family has said many of Sutherland’s encounters with the patient occurred overnight, when fewer staff members and visitors were around.
Lawyers for the family also said Hacienda missed dozens of signs that the woman was carrying a baby, pointing out that she had gained weight, had a swollen belly and missed menstrual periods in the months before the child was born.
They said the victim, who has a feeding tube and whose nutrition was reduced in response to her weight gain during the pregnancy, delivered the boy while severely dehydrated and without pain medications.
Sutherland is a devout Christian and a father of four. He was moonlighting as a Christian rapper, touring churches in Phoenix
The victim lived at Hacienda for 26 years, until the child’s birth. Her medical conditions stem from a brain disorder that caused motor and cognitive impairments and vision loss. She was also left with no functional use of her limbs.
Sutherland, described as a devout Christian rapper and father-of-four, initially pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault and abuse of vulnerable adult charges.
Hacienda Healthcare’s former CEO Bill Timmons has pleaded guilty to two counts of felony fraud
State records show he was first became a clinical nursing assistant in 2005, before becoming an licensed practitioner nurse in 2011. He had worked at Hacienda for eight years.
Sutherland was fired from his job and voluntarily surrendered his nursing license after his arrest.
The boy Sutherland had fathered with the severely disabled patient was being raised by his maternal grandmother and was said to be doing well.
A judge has approved a $15million settlement against a doctor who cared for the woman for 26 years while she lived at Hacienda Healthcare. The doctor’s insurer has argued it has no obligation to pay that amount.
The state of Arizona, which contracts with companies like Hacienda to provide services to people with developmental disabilities, settled last summer for $7.5million.
Earlier this year, Hacienda Healthcare’s former CEO Bill Timmons pleaded guilty to two counts of felony fraud.
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