A male nurse arrested on suspicion of raping a woman in a vegetative state in Arizona, who gave birth despite being in a coma for the past 26 years, appeared in court on Wednesday. He, however, did not enter a plea to the charges against him.
The man, identified as 36-year-old Nathan Sutherland, is reportedly facing one charge of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse. Sutherland was apprehended after DNA tests conducted across the particular branch of Hacienda HealthCare Facility identified him as the newborn's father. He has reportedly worked at the facility for eight years, according to Daily Mail.
Police officials in Arizona had launched a sexual assault investigation after a comatose patient gave birth. Reports state that the staff at Hacienda HealthCare had been giving the female patient round-the-clock care. The patient, who has not been identified, was admitted to the medical facility in 1992 after a near-drowning. According to sources close to the healthcare facility, the patient gave birth to the child on December 29 and the infant is believed to be alive and healthy.
A Maricopa County Superior Court commissioner placed the father-of-four on a $500,000 cash-only bail bond. The recently-divorced defendant is reportedly being held in the Maricopa County Jail and his next court appearance is scheduled for January 30. If Sutherland is released, he would be required to wear an electronic monitoring device and would be placed under house arrest.
Sutherland's defense attorney David Gregan said that his client has no prior criminal record and told the court that there was "no direct evidence" suggesting his client had committed the crime. The attorney, however, acknowledged the DNA evidence collected by police officials.
According to police, Sutherland, a Haitian orphan and a devout Christian, has been a licensed practical nurse since 2011 and was directly responsible for caring for the victim at the Hacienda HealthCare Facility.
According to the facility, Sutherland was subjected to an "extensive background check" before he was hired. Reports state that he divorced from his wife Bridget Sutherland last year, before the birth of the victim's child. Sutherland also refused to answer investigator's questions after his arrest.
Hacienda officials released a statement that Sutherland was terminated from the organization "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," the statement continued. "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."