Nurse jailed for raping and impregnating immobile patient

The woman had been living at the care facility for 26 years when the assault occurred

Graig Graziosi
Friday 03 December 2021 18:35
Hacienda sexual assault scandal: Nurse who assaulted incapacitated woman sentenced

A nurse charged with sexually assaulting an intellectually disabled woman in his care – the woman later shocked facility staff when she gave birth to a child – has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty.

Nathan Sutherland, who formerly worked as a nurse at the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix, Arizona, was in charge of the woman's care.

CNN reported that he became the subject of scrutiny when his co-workers discovered that the woman, who is nonverbal and struggles with even simple movement, had given birth to a baby boy.

Care workers at the facility told 911 dispatchers that they "had no idea she was pregnant”.

The discovery shocked the healthcare facility. The woman, 29 at the time of the assault, had been living at the facility since she was three-years-old. She was left with significant intellectual disabilities due to seizures she suffered early in her childhood.

Every male staff member at the facility had to comply with a DNA test. Those tests matched Sutherland's DNA with that of the baby boy. Police arrested Sutherland and charged him with rape.

Earlier this year Sutherland pleaded guilty to sexual assault and abusing a vulnerable adult. On Thursday he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Maricopa County Attorney Alister Adel said the length of the sentence was influenced by the "vulnerability of the victim and the position of trust held by the defendant ... This sentence honors the wishes of the victims.”

"It's hard to imagine a more vulnerable adult than the victim in this case," Superior Court judge Margaret LaBianca said during the sentencing hearing.

Sutherland apologised to the victim and her family prior to his sentencing.

"You didn't deserve to be hurt no matter what was going on in my personal life and the demons I was fighting," he said. "I had no right to put you through that."

Following the high-profile assault, the healthcare facility said its staff underwent significant retraining regarding abuse and neglect guidelines, and installed new security cameras to ensure patient safety at the facility.

Bill Timmons, the chief executive of the facility at the time of the assault, resigned following the incident. The current chief executive, Perry Petrilli, praised the sentence.

"We are relieved that he will never again torment another innocent human being," he said.

Sutherland will have to register as a sex offender and will be subject to lifetime probation.

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