Judge rejects bid to toss DNA in incapacitated woman’s rape

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FILE - This undated photo provided by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows Nathan Sutherland, who is charged with sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who later gave birth in 2018 at a long-term care facility in Phoenix. A judge on Monday, May 24, 2021, rejected Sutherland's bid to throw out DNA evidence that authorities say ties him to the sexual assault. Sutherland has pleaded not guilty to the charges. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

PHOENIX – A former nurse charged with sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who later gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care facility has lost a bid to throw out DNA evidence that authorities say links him to the crime.

A judge on Monday rejected Nathan Sutherland’s claim that investigators made a misrepresentation when saying in a request for a court order that 36 male Hacienda Healthcare employees whose DNA was being sought had direct access to the victim. Sutherland’s lawyer argued police were unaware of the job duties of the 36 men or whether they had contact with the then-29-year-old victim.

“The victim had been in a vegetative state since the age of three," Judge Stephen Hopkins wrote. “It was a very logical deduction that one of the male employees/agents who were present at the facility would be the father.”

The judge also rejected Sutherland’s characterization that police had a casual approach to the investigation. Hopkins said there was no evidence to suggest, as Sutherland has, that a routine order to collect evidence was signed by a court official to save face politically in a high-profile investigation.

It’s unknown whether Sutherland will appeal the ruling. His attorney, Edwin Molina, didn’t immediately return a phone call and email Tuesday morning seeking comment on the decision.

The pregnancy was discovered in December 2018 when an employee at the Hacienda Healthcare facility in Phoenix was changing the garments of the victim and noticed the patient was in the process of delivering a child. Employees told police that they had no idea the woman was pregnant.

Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult. He was fired by Hacienda after his arrest and has since given up his nursing license.

Police have said Sutherland’s DNA matched a sample taken from the woman’s son. The victim’s mother is the boy’s guardian.