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A former Arizona nurse has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting and impregnating a non-verbal woman in a vegetive state at a Phoenix care facility more than two years ago.
Nathan Dorceus Sutherland, 39, pleaded guilty on Thursday to sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse of a disabled care home patient, court filings show.
In December 2018, a health care worker at Phoenix’s Hacienda Healthcare was stunned to find an “incapacitated” patient in the midst of giving birth. Employees at the facility were unaware the woman was carrying a child. She later delivered a baby boy.
Sutherland, who attended to the woman at the care home between 2012 and 2018, was arrested after authorities concluded his DNA matched that of the infant. He was charged with vulnerable adult abuse and one count of sexual assault. A grand jury indicted him in 2019.
The revelations also led to a series of resignations of Hacienda Healthcare’s top medical officials, including one of its physicians. A judge later approved a $15 million settlement in favor of the victim’s parents against a doctor who was responsible for caring for their daughter for more than two and a half decades.
The health care provider welcomed news of Sutherland’s guilty plea this week.
“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,” Perry Petrilli, chief executive of Hacienda Healthcare, said in a statement. “As ever, our hearts are with the victim and her family. May these final steps in the legal process help them find peace.”
The woman, who was 29 at the time of the abuse, had been disabled since the age of 3, and lived at Hacienda Healthcare since she was a toddler. The victim suffers from a brain disorder, vision loss, quadriplegia, chronic pneumonia, and recurring seizures, according to medical records. She “lacks sufficient understanding and mental capacity to make decisions or give consents for her medical, placement or financial estate" records also stated.
The woman’s mother has since become the child’s guardian.
Sutherland, who had worked at Hacienda Healthcare since 2012, surrendered his license to the Arizona State Board of Nursing after being taken into police custody. He once performed in a Christian rap group known as Sleeplesssouljaz.
A spokesperson for the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office didn’t respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment on Friday regarding Sutherland’s pleas.
Sutherland is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 4., according to court records. His plea agreement stipulates a five to 10-year prison sentence for sexual assault, plus lifetime probation on abuse charges.
His defense attorney, Edwin A. Molina III, also wasn’t immediately available for comment.
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