PHOENIX (TCD) -- A former nurse for Hacienda HealthCare pleaded guilty this week to sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who gave birth.
According to the Arizona Republic, Nathan Sutherland pleaded guilty to abuse of a vulnerable adult, which could mean a sentence of between 5 1/4 years to 10 years. A spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office told the Arizona Republic the charge also means a lifetime of probation.
Hacienda HealthCare CEO Perry Petrilli wrote in a statement obtained by AZ Family, "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 — and now we hope the judge will sentence Sutherland appropriately given the severity of his crimes."
The statement continued, "As ever, our hearts are with the victim and her family. May these final steps in the legal process help them find peace."
The victim, who has reportedly been in a vegetative state for over 10 years, gave birth to a baby boy on December 29, 2018, AZ Family reported at the time. Hacienda HealthCare reportedly did not know the woman was pregnant until she was in labor. The boy was reportedly born "healthy," according to AZ Family.
AZ Family reports Sutherland was arrested January 26, 2019. He was reportedly the nurse in charge of giving care to the victim when the assault occurred. Investigators identified Sutherland by taking his DNA and matching it to the baby.
The woman, according to AZ Family, has been a patient at Hacienda HealthCare since she was a toddler. The family’s attorney wrote in a statement obtained by AZ Family that the family wanted to "make clear that their daughter is not in a coma. She has significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood."
The statement added, "She has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music, and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family."
The victim was 29 at the time she gave birth. According to the Arizona Republic, the victim’s mother is the boy’s guardian. The victim is currently at a different facility in Arizona.
In January, a judge approved a $15 million settlement between the victim’s family and the doctor who had cared for her for 26 years until she gave birth, the Arizona Republic reports.
Sutherland’s sentencing date is scheduled for November 4.