Police have made an arrest in the case of a woman in a vegetative state who was raped and subsequently gave birth to a child at an Arizona care facility on December 29.
The suspect is 36-year-old Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical care nurse responsible for overseeing the care of the victim at Hacienda Healthcare Facility in Phoenix. Sutherland, who has been employed at the facility since 2011, has been charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.
The victim, 29 years old, has been in a vegetative state since age 3, though her parents argue she is not comatose, citing her ability to make facial expressions and move limbs slightly. They maintain she is merely intellectually disabled.
Police credit “good old fashioned police work” for the arrest, stating DNA evidence connects Sutherland and the victim’s baby. Sutherland has invoked the Fifth Amendment and has yet to engage in an interview with police regarding the matter.
The victim’s most recent physical exam leading up to the birth was reportedly last April, and a spokesman for the police department claims staff of the healthcare facility had no knowledge that she was pregnant until she delivered the baby, who is doing well, according to the spokesman.
Two physicians also responsible for overseeing the victim’s care are no longer practicing at the facility. Though they have not been identified, a spokesperson for the facility told reporters that one has resigned and the other has been suspended.
Though police cannot confirm how many times the victim was sexually assaulted, the mere thought of what the victim endured is sickening. How anyone responsible for maintaining the health and safety of a patient could violate that trust in such a vile manner is incomprehensible.
I am glad there will be recompense for the victim and her family. But I am also disgusted beyond words that something so horrific can happen in a place to which we entrust our loved ones’ health and dignity.
May the justice system prevail.