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This is a weird one. A 29-year-old woman who has been in a vegetative state at a Phoenix health care facility since 2002, unexpectedly gave birth in December.
The father of the baby has been identified as Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse who was caring for the woman at the facility. A court order for his DNA showed that his matched the DNA of the baby. Sutherland has been charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.
The woman’s parents said in a statement that she is not in a coma. She has “significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood,” but is able to move and respond to sound. Police began investigating the case as a sexual assault because the woman cannot give consent.
Through search warrants, investigators were able to identify the people who had access to the woman, along with court orders to get DNA from men who worked in the facility. Sutherland was among those responsible for caring for the woman “during the time this sexual assault occurred,” leading to the court order compelling him to provide a DNA sample, Thompson said.
Sutherland said nothing at his first court appearance, other than his name and date of birth. According to Phoenix police Sgt. Tommy Thompson, Sutherland has “invoked his Fifth Amendment rights” and has not participated in an interview with police.
Sutherland attorney David Gregan asked for a low bond, saying there was “no direct evidence that Mr. Sutherland has committed these acts,” and that he anticipated that Sutherland’s defense would include his own DNA expert.
His bond has been set at $500,000 and his next court appearance will be Jan. 30.
Hacienda HealthCare said every member of the company is “troubled beyond words to think that a … nurse could be capable of seriously harming a patient.”
Written by Clarke Jones