This story is over 5 years old.


Cops arrest alleged father of child conceived while woman was in a vegetative state

A 36-year-old nurse at the Phoenix care facility is the suspect

Arizona cops have arrested the alleged father of the child birthed by a woman who's been in a vegetative state since she was a toddler.

Nathan Sutherland, a 36-year-old nurse at the Phoenix care facility where the woman lives, has been charged with vulnerable adult abuse and one count of sexual assault. Police made the arrest Tuesday night, and he is being held without bond. Police say they matched Sutherland’s DNA to the child’s when they obtained samples for every male employee of the facility as part of a search warrant.

Sutherland was serving as the woman’s nurse at the time of the alleged abuse, cops said at a Wednesday news conference. Caretakers reportedly did not know the victim was pregnant until she started moaning because she was in labor in late December. The 29-year-old woman is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and her child is healthy and living with her extended family.

The family’s attorney released a statement this week to clarify that the mother was not in a coma, which means that someone does not respond to light or sound. Patients in vegetative states, meanwhile, can have facial expressions and make sounds, though they are still unconscious.

"She has significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood," the statement read. "She does not speak but has some ability to move her limbs, head and neck. Their daughter responds to sound and is able to make facial gestures. The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, 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."

Cover: Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams, front right, speaks during a news conference as she is joined by Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams, left, and other members of law enforcement as they announce that Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse, has been arrested on one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse on an incapacitated woman who gave birth last month at a long-term health care facility Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)