Nurse arrested after woman in vegetative state gives birth

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PHOENIX — A 36-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of impregnating woman in a vegetative state who gave birth last month at a Phoenix health care facility, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said Wednesday.

Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse who was caring for the woman at the Hacienda HealthCare facility, has been arrested and is being booked on preliminary charges of sexual assault and vulnerable-adult abuse, Williams said.

Sutherland’s DNA “matched the baby” when crime lab technicians tested it Tuesday, Phoenix police Sgt. Tommy Thompson said.

Caretakers of the woman were taken by surprise by the December 29 birth, with one telling a 911 dispatcher, “We had no idea she was pregnant.” The woman is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and has long been in a vegetative state, the tribe’s chairman has said.

“The baby, I am told, is doing quite well,” Thompson said Wednesday.

Phoenix police recently said they were conducting a sexual assault investigation and were gathering DNA from men who work at the facility. The woman, 29, has been there since 1992.

The birth prompted Hacienda to hire a former prosecutor to review what happened. The company was turning over all records of the woman’s treatment and has been ordered to hire a third-party manager to oversee several of its facilities.

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