A former nurse in Arizona pleaded guilty Thursday to two felony charges for abusing and sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who later gave birth, according to the Maricopa County attorney.
The man, Nathan Sutherland, was arrested and charged in January 2019 after DNA evidence tied him to a child delivered by a 29-year-old incapacitated woman who was living at Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix. She had lived at the inpatient facility since age 3 after suffering brain damage and entering a permanent vegetative state.
Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said Sutherland faces five to 10 years in prison for the sexual assault charge and lifetime probation for the vulnerable adult abuse charge.
Sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4.
Hacienda Healthcare did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It said in a statement to NBC affiliate KPNX:
“After more than 2-1/2 years, all of us at Hacienda Healthcare are relieved that Nathan Sutherland has finally pleaded guilty to his awful offenses. We have cooperated in every way possible with law enforcement and investigators. … Our hearts are with the victim and her family.”
In January 2019, police released audio of the 911 call from employees of Hacienda Healthcare — who had no idea the woman was pregnant — when she began to give birth in December 2018.
Within the month, police had executed a search warrant and collected DNA from some of the facility’s staff members and found a match between Sutherland and the baby.
Sutherland, who was arrested in January 2019, initially pleaded not guilty to two felonies.
The state of Arizona, Hacienda Healthcare and others settled for millions of dollars in lawsuits filed by the woman’s family.