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Incapacitated Arizona Woman Who Gave Birth After Rape Was Likely Pregnant Before, Family Says

Her family's claim alleges that her caretakers and doctor repeatedly missed signs that she had been raped and impregnated.

by Carter Sherman
May 23 2019, 3:55pm

An incapacitated woman who gave birth after being raped at a long-term care facility in Arizona had likely been pregnant before, according to new documents filed Wednesday.

Her family filed a notice of claim to the state of Arizona, indicating they're open to settling for $45 million, CNN reported. The claim filed by their lawyers Wednesday alleges that the woman’s caretakers at the Phoenix-based Hacienda Healthcare facility, where she’d been living since age 3, repeatedly missed signs that she had been raped and impregnated. When the woman, now 29, gave birth late last year, her caretakers were shocked.

When staffers called 911, one told the operator, “We had no idea she was pregnant.”

But the Maricopa County Medical Center determined that the woman had been repeatedly sexually assaulted and that the birth was likely a “repeat parous event,” meaning that it had happened before, according to the notice of claim, Arizona’s Family reported. The woman is nonverbal but can respond to sound, make facial gestures, and move some of her extremities, CNN reported.

Police used DNA evidence to arrest and charge Nathan Sutherland, a nurse who worked for Hacienda Healthcare, with sexual assault in connection to the case. He has pleaded not guilty.

The notice of claim says the woman underwent "unspeakable atrocities,” thanks in part to "virtually non-existent oversight on the part of the state,” according to CNN. Arizona is thus “vicariously liable for the negligence, gross negligence, and medical negligence" that allegedly occurred at Hacienda.

The facility announced in February that it was shutting down.

Read more: Facility where woman was raped and gave birth will close

A spokesperson for the Arizona attorney general’s office confirmed that the state had received the notice of claim, but declined to have any further comment. The state will be represented by outside counsel.

According to the claim, staffers at Hacienda Healthcare missed dozens of signs that the woman was pregnant. They repeatedly noted that her abdomen was distended, that she had swollen feet and hands, and that she’d missed her menstrual period. At one point, her doctor cut off her food in an effort to help the woman lose weight, according to the Arizona Republic. When she gave birth, she allegedly did so while malnourished and without any pain medications.

The woman reportedly gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

Cover: Joined by other police officials and city leaders, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams announces the arrest of Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse, 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)