Arizona police have arrested a man in connection to the sexual assault of a woman in a long-term vegetative state.
According to reports from the Associated Press, Nathan Sutherland, 36, was arrested and charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.
Authorities learned of the sexual assault when the victim, a 29-year-old patient at Hacienda Healthcare Facility, gave birth despite being in a vegetative state.
Sutherland, a nurse at the facility, has been linked by DNA in connection with the event. At the time of the alleged assault, Sutherland was the primary caregiver in charge of the victim’s care.
The woman, a quadriplegic in a vegetative state, is said to be “lack[ing] sufficient understanding and mental capacity to make decisions or give consents for her medical, placement or financial estate,” according to reports obtained by People magazine.
According to the victim’s family, she is not in a coma—despite the perception that authorities are portraying to the media.
The victim—who can’t speak or participate in any form of verbal communication—is reportedly able to move some limbs—suggesting she may have been aware of the assault.
“The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities,” read a statement from the victim’s family.
Amid public outcry, the CEO of Hacienda Healthcare has resigned, and one of the doctors overseeing the victim’s care has been suspended.
An internal review has been put in place to better prevent similar incidents in the future.