Here’s what we know in the Hacienda HealthCare sex assault case
PHOENIX — There are finally some answers in the ongoing sexual assault case involving a patient at a Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix, nearly a month after the woman gave birth.
Nathan Sutherland, a 36-year-old licensed practical nurse who was responsible for caring for the victim, was arrested, police announced Wednesday.
Sutherland cared for the 29-year-old victim during the time the alleged sexual assault occurred, spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson said. She had been in the facility since she was 3.
The woman gave birth on Dec. 29, prompting the investigation at the long-term care facility near 16th Street and South Mountain Avenue.
Police initially described the woman as being in a vegetative state, but John Micheaels, the family’s lawyer, said she has “significant intellectual disabilities” and is not able to speak, but has some ability to move her limbs, head and neck, responds to sound and is able to make facial gestures.
The baby is healthy and is believed to be out of the hospital, Thompson said Wednesday.
Here is a timeline of the the Hacienda HealthCare sexual assault investigation:
The first report of a female patient who gave birth at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix came from AZFamily.
The television station reported that a source familiar with the situation said the patient, who was in a vegetative state, gave birth on Dec. 29.
A Hacienda HealthCare spokesman said in a statement at the time that it “recently become aware of a deeply disturbing incident involving the health and safety of a Hacienda resident” and started an internal review.
Bill Timmons, the Hacienda HealthCare CEO, resigned effective immediately, a company spokesman said in a statement on Jan. 7.
The news of Timmons’ resignation came shortly after the report of a patient who gave birth while in a vegetative state surfaced.
His resignation was accepted unanimously by the board of directors.
Executive Vice President Gary Orman said in the statement that the facility “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation.”
Police investigators served a search warrant to obtain DNA from male staffers at Hacienda HealthCare, the company said on Jan. 8.
Police said at the time they would not confirm the news of a warrant, saying only that the investigation was ongoing.
The Hacienda statement said the company welcomed the move by the police and had looked into conducting its own DNA tests.
Later that day, the San Carlos Apache Tribe said the female Hacienda HealthCare patient was a 29-year-old member who “has been in a persistent vegetative state and coma for over a decade.”
Phoenix police confirm on Jan. 9 that the department is searching for a suspect in a sexual assault case regarding an “incapacitated” woman who gave birth to a baby at Hacienda HealthCare.
Thompson said officers responded on Dec. 29 to a call of an infant who had been delivered at the facility.
The baby was in distress when officers arrived and the woman and baby were transported to a local hospital.
Thompson said the sexual assault investigation was launched that same day because the victim was in a vegetative state and was not in a position to give consent.
The Hacienda HealthCare employee who called emergency services after a patient gave birth to a baby while in a vegetative state said the infant was not breathing after delivery.
“Is the baby breathing? The baby is not breathing, the baby is blue. They’re doing CPR on the baby,” the unidentified caller said in the 911 call released by Phoenix police on Jan 11.
“We had no idea this person was pregnant…We had no idea this patient was pregnant. This is a complete surprise, we were not expecting that,” the caller, a nurse, said during the 5-minute call.
Hacienda HealthCare agreed to two Arizona agencies’ demand that the Phoenix facility hire a third-party manager on Jan. 17.
The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (the state’s Medicaid program) and the Arizona Department of Economic Security made the demand following visits to the facility after the birth.
“During the course of those visits, there have been several significant concerns raised, and corrective action letters have been issued,” the agencies said in a Jan. 16 letter.
“Nonetheless, in order to guarantee ongoing improvement, additional oversight is immediately warranted and necessary to protect the medically fragile patients at Hacienda and to assure their loved ones that they are safe and protected.”
A corrective action letter sent on Jan. 7 from the state’s Medicaid program to Perry Petrilli, Hacienda’s director of social services, said an onsite review determined that the health or welfare of one of its members was endangered.
The agency required immediate action from Hacienda HealthCare due to the “substantial and critical failures of Hacienda to safeguard member’s safety and ensure quality of services.”
Some demands listed by the agency in its letter included conducting pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease testing, improving security protocols and disclosing policies for various checks and trainings.
Chief Jeri Williams said Sutherland was a licensed practical nurse who was responsible for caring for the victim during the time the alleged sexual assault occurred.
Sutherland is facing one count of sexual assault and one count of abusing a vulnerable adult. He had worked at the facility since 2011, according to police.