Arizona ex-nurse pleads guilty to raping severely disabled woman

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A former Arizona nurse pleaded guilty on Thursday in the 2018 sexual assault of a severely disabled woman at a long-term care facility, a crime that came to light only when she unexpectedly gave birth.

Nathan Sutherland, 39, pleaded guilty to one count each of sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse during a brief hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, a court official said.

Sutherland faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced on November 4, as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

The defendant, an ex-licensed practical nurse at Hacienda HealthCare Skilled Nursing Facility, was arrested in January 2019 after police said investigators tied him through DNA evidence to the victim.

The woman’s pregnancy was discovered only when she went into labor at the Phoenix care center. Investigators gave all male employees DNA tests.

The woman, who was in her 20s, was disabled as a result of seizures since early childhood and had been at the facility for most of her life. Her parents said she was capable of making facial gestures and had limited movement of her limbs, head and neck.

Sutherland, who had worked at Hacienda since 2012, was fired by administrators immediately upon learning of his arrest, a spokesman has said. He later agreed to relinquish his nursing license.

REUTERS