Phoenix police have arrested a licensed practical nurse (LPN) who is suspected of fathering a baby born to a mentally disabled woman at a nursing facility. The woman has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years after a near drowning accident.
Nathan Sutherland, 36, was taken into custody after investigators confirmed his DNA matched the baby's DNA. He was booked into the Maricopa Jail without bond on Tuesday on charges of one count of vulnerable adult abuse and one count of sexual assault, according to ABC News.
As a LPN, Sutherland was in charge of the woman's care at Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix since 2011.
Sutherland was not working at the facility at the time of his arrest.
Police launched an investigation after the 29-year-old woman gave birth in her bed. Police secured a court order to test Sutherland's DNA after they determined he was the nurse with access to the patient when her baby was conceived.
The facility owner declined to test male employees after civil rights attorneys advised him that mass DNA testing would violate the employees' civil rights.
The woman's relatives, who visited her once every three months, said she is not comatose. She has "significant intellectual disabilities" but she is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, particularly family members.
Her parents, who are members of the Cocopah Indian Tribe, released a statement through an attorney on Wednesday.
"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."
A person in a coma is totally unconscious and unresponsive to light and sound. A person in a vegetative state has severe brain damage but they can react to light and sound. They can open their eyes and they may seem to be awake.
A patient is classified as being in a "persistent" vegetative state after 4 weeks in a vegetative state.