The suspect accused of raping and impregnating a severely incapacitated woman appeared in court on Wednesday, the same day that Phoenix police announced his arrest in a news conference.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Nathan Sutherland, a nurse at Hacienda HealthCare, was arrested on suspicion that he raped a 29-year-old patient who became pregnant. The victim gave birth on December 29, prompting a rape investigation at the nursing facility. Authorities said at the news conference that Sutherland had submitted a DNA sample on Tuesday that implicated him in the crime.
At a court hearing on Wednesday, a judge ordered Sutherland to be held on $500,000 cash bail. If the suspect is able to pay the bond, he will be placed on house arrest. In video of the court appearance obtained by ABC 15, an attorney appearing to be a public defender indicates that the defendant may challenge the results of the DNA analysis that led to his arrest.
There have been conflicting reports about whether Sutherland was still employed at Hacienda HealthCare at the time he submitted a DNA sample. Earlier Wednesday, ABC News published a report indicating that Sutherland, who was reportedly hired there in 2011, had left Hacienda HealthCare prior to his arrest, but a statement from Hacienda HealthCare issued Wednesday confirmed that Sutherland was indeed an employee there when he submitted the DNA sample and that he was terminated immediately after his arrest. The ABC News report now states only that Sutherland was not at work at the time investigators took samples for evidence.
Since the news of the patient’s pregnancy was first reported in early January, there have been numerous instances of contradictory or changing information reported about the case. Most recently, a lawyer for the family said in an interview with a local news outlet that the patient was not entirely unresponsive, and that while she is nonverbal, she can recognize family members. Also, initial reports stated that the patient had been at the facility for about a decade, but court records obtained by People magazine and additional outlets showed that she had been at Hacienda HealthCare since she was a toddler.
Sutherland has been charged with one count of vulnerable adult abuse and one count of sexual assault.