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Hacienda suspect never raised any red flags, former co-worker says

This Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, photo shows Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — A former Hacienda HealthCare employee had nothing but praise for Nathan Sutherland, who is accused of sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who gave birth last month.

Eleanora Riggers, who said she worked at the long-term care facility as a respiratory therapist from 2005 to 2016, said Sutherland, who was a licensed practical nurse at the facility, was a good guy and a professional employee.

“He really fooled me, I suppose you can say, because I had nothing but a good opinion of him. I had a good, professional working relationship with him, friendly, outgoing, very nice,” Riggers told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Thursday.

“If I had concerns that I had to bring to him over to a patient, I personally always felt like it was in good hands and it would be addressed. Now we know otherwise,” she added.

“But not when I was working with him, I never saw any indication of anything other than professionalism other than a nice guy. Never inappropriate with me, never inappropriate that I ever saw with anyone else.”

Sutherland, 36, was arrested on Tuesday after a DNA sample that was taken under court order linked him to the baby of a 29-year-old patient with “significant intellectual disabilities,” no speaking abilities and limited movement. The baby was born at the facility on Dec. 29, police have said.

Riggers said she was “completely devastated” when she learned of the arrest.

“It completely rocked my world. I still can’t process it,” she said. “I keep thinking over and over in my head, ‘Did I miss anything? Is there anything that I can think of?’ Nothing, I can’t come up with anything.”

Even though Riggers still believes Sutherland has the right to go through the judicial process before he is tried in public court, she said she is confident that the DNA match is telling the truth.

“I’m so conflicted, just horribly conflicted. If he did this, he’s the lowest scum that I could ever imagine,” she said.

“And I think of him as a Ted Bundy, I think he’s a sociopath who fooled us all. Everyone liked him.”

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