Nathan Sutherland, 36, faced court on Wednesday after being charged with raping the 29-year-old woman at Hacienda Healthcare Skilled Nursing Facility in Phoenix
A lawyer for an Arizona male nurse charged with raping a quadriplegic woman at a long-term care facility says there is no proof he committed the act – even though police say his DNA linked him to the case after she gave birth to a baby boy.
Nathan Sutherland, 36, faced court on Wednesday after being charged with raping the 29-year-old woman at Hacienda Healthcare Skilled Nursing Facility in Phoenix.
Police started investigating after the severely disabled woman, who they say was not in a position to give consent, unexpectedly gave birth on December 29.
The shock birth prompted authorities to test the DNA of all the men who worked at the care facility.
Sutherland, a devout Christian and father-of-four, was forced to submit his DNA sample under court order on Tuesday and the results showed he was a match to the baby.
He declined to speak with police and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. He did not enter a plea when he faced court on Wednesday.
Defense attorney David Gregan described his client as a family man with young children who has lived in Arizona since 1993.
‘There’s no direct evidence that Mr Sutherland has committed these acts,’ Gregan said.
‘I know at this point there’s DNA. But he will have a right to his own DNA expert.’
Defense attorney David Gregan described his client as a family man with young children who has lived in Arizona since 1993. He said there was ‘no direct evidence’ that Sutherland committed the rape, but did acknowledge the DNA
The 36-year-old is a devout Christian who tours local churches in Phoenix with his sister (right) under the group name, ‘SLEEPLESSSOLJAZ’
The defense attorney had asked for a lower bond on the grounds that Sutherland didn’t have a criminal record.
A Maricopa County Superior Court commissioner set a $500,000 cash-only bond. If Sutherland posts bond, he would need to wear an electronic monitoring device.
He is charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.
Police said Sutherland had been a licensed practical nurse since 2011 and was directly responsible for caring for the victim at the facility.
Investigators believe Sutherland raped the patient sometime between February and April.
Officials at the facility said Sutherland went through an ‘extensive background check’ before he was hired.
They said he was terminated ‘the moment our leadership team learned of his arrest’.
‘Every member of the Hacienda organization is troubled beyond words to think that a licensed practical nurse could be capable of seriously harming a patient,’ a statement from the facility said.
‘Once again, we offer an apology and send our deepest sympathies to the client and her family, to the community and to our agency partners at every level.’
He had worked at Hacienda for eight years.
Sutherland and his wife Bridget divorced last year. The motion was ordered on December 28 – just 24 hours before the victim gave birth.
Sutherland divorced from his wife last Bridgett last year (left). The pair lived with their four-children in their Phoenix home, a neighbor revealed. Bridgett owns a catering company which Sutherland has worked for (seen right)
According to court documents, the motion of divorce was ordered on December 28, 24 hours before the birth of the victim’s child (pictured: Sutherland sings at Bridgett’s birthday in October, 2016)
State records show he was first became a clinical nursing assistant in 2005, before becoming an licensed practitioner nurse.
The 36-year-old is a Haitian orphan and devout Christian who regularly tours local churches to perform Christian rap songs in the group ‘SLEEPLESSOULJAZ’ alongside his sister.
‘My parent’s split up in Haiti and I remember my mom couldn’t take care of us, so she took us to an orphanage’, Sutherland said in 2011.
‘Even though it was an orphanage you were blessed if you had one cup or bowl of rice or something a day.’
A former neighbor of the nurse has described him as a ‘quiet family man’.
Esella Burr said on Wednesday that Sutherland was her neighbor for more than five years until he sold his Phoenix-area home in October.
Burr says he shared the home with his wife and four children, and she saw the couple leave for church every Sunday.
She says Sutherland would sometimes wave or start a conversation with her and had mentioned that he enjoyed his job as a nurse.
Sutherland (left) is a Haitian orphan who was adopted to the United States when he was a child
Sutherland (right) has worked at Hacienda since 2011. He has been a nurse since 2005, according to state documents
Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix where a 29-year-old woman gave birth despite being incapacitated for more than a decade
The 29-year-old victim has been in long-term care since she was three years old.
She gave birth at the facility as staff frantically called 911 for assistance, telling the operator that they had not known the 112-pound patient was pregnant.
The baby has since been released from the hospital and the victim’s family have said they will take care of the boy.
‘We owed this arrest to the victim. We owed this arrest to the newest member of our community – that innocent baby,’ Phoenix police Sergeant Tommy Thomson said.
‘The baby I am told is doing good.
‘We can’t always choose how we come into this life, but we can choose as a community how we will love this child – and that’s what we need to do.’
According to the victim’s family, their daughter’s condition includes severe brain damage, seizure disorder, and psycho-motor retardation.
Initially she was described as being in a coma.
‘She does not speak but has some ability to move her limbs, head and neck,’ the family’s attorney said in a statement.
‘The important thing here is that contrary to what’s been reported, she is a person, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities.
‘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 case has prompted the departure or discipline of key figures at Hacienda HealthCare, including the CEO William Timmons.
Timmons resigned on December 31 as the provider announced new safety measures, including more than one staff member being present during patient interactions and more scrutiny of visitors.
Phoenix police officers are pictured here visiting residents of the home around the time of the holidays in 2014
Members of the Phoenix police department would regularly visit the home during the holidays
Hacienda HealthCare CEO Bill Timmons stepped down last month in light of the scandal
On Monday, the hospital confirmed that two doctors responsible for overseeing the victim’s care would no longer be practicing at the facility. Dr. Nguyen (left) was suspended on January 15. Dr. Gear (right) has resigned, a statement said
The provider says one doctor who had cared for the woman resigned and another had been suspended.
Dr. Thanh Nguyen has been revealed as the victim’s primary care doctor in a suspension letter obtained by CBS News.
Issued on January 15 – 10 days after the story first broke – the letter, addressed to Nguyen, states he placed ‘one or more’ of his patients’ heath and welfare ‘in danger’.
Nguyen has been suspended without pay until a full internal investigation is carried out by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).
The second physician is believed to be Dr. Phillip Gear, a veteran pediatrician in Phoenix, who has previously been reprimanded by the Arizona Medical board after the death of an infant under his care.
Practicing for more than 30 years, court records show Dr. Gear last checked the victim in April 2018 and noted no major changes in her health or condition.
Both of the woman’s caregivers claimed to be unaware she was pregnant, but the time of Dr. Gear’s last interaction with the victim would suggest she had been a few weeks pregnant at the time of the examination.
This isn’t the first time Dr. Gear has been involved in an instance of negligence in relation to his care of a patient.
In 2001, Gear was reproached by the Arizona Medical Board for failing to perform a rectal exam on a toddler under his care, who later died.
The board concluded Gear’s actions constituted negligence resulting in the child’s death.