(CBS) – The mother of a patient at a long-term care facility where an incapacitated woman gave birth could hardly believe that a 36-year-old nurse who helped care for her son was the suspect arrested this week.
“He was very loving, very compassionate. Or he pretended to be. And I really trusted him,” Angela Gomez said of the suspect, Nathan Sutherland.
She said never in her “wildest dreams” did she think Sutherland would be the suspect authorities were looking for.
“I suspected others, but I was wrong, and he fooled everybody,” Gomez said, CBS affiliate KPHO-TV reported.
Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse, worked at the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix from 2011 until his arrest on Tuesday, CBS News’ Carter Evans reported. He was charged with sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse in a case involving a 29-year-old incapacitated woman who had been at the facility since she was 3 years old.
She gave birth to a baby boy in December.
Police were first alerted when a staff member called 911 saying “one of our patients had a baby and we had no idea she was pregnant.”
Ultimately, investigators obtained DNA samples from male employees at the facility, Including Sutherland. Results showed he was a match to the baby.
Defense attorney David Gregan described Sutherland as a family man and said there no “direct evidence” that he “committed these acts.”
“I know at this point there’s DNA. But he will have a right to his own DNA expert,” Gregan said.
Hacienda sent a letter to patients’ families following the incident saying patients are entitled to free STD and pregnancy tests. Gomez, whose 27-year-old son was cared for by Sutherland at times, went to the facility Wednesday to get her son tested.
She said Sutherland worked the night shift and that she wasn’t sure about the extent of contact he had with her son, KPHO-TV reported.
“He’s afraid. Not all the time but every once in a while, and he’s expressed that,” Gomez said about her son. “We’ve asked him why and he’s said he’s afraid of the monster, is what he says. And I’ve said, ‘What’s the monster’s name?’ but my son never says the name of the person he’s afraid of.”
Gomez is concerned there may be other victims at the facility.
Karina Cesena, another parent, moved her daughter from the Hacienda facility after she found out about the woman who gave birth. She said nothing about Sutherland’s demeanor stood out.
Hacienda HealthCare said in a statement Wednesday that Sutherland underwent “an extensive background check” when he was hired.
“Every member of the Hacienda organization is troubled beyond words to think that a licensed practical nurse could be capable of seriously harming a patient,” the statement said.
Hacienda said it will “continue to review and improve what is already an in-depth vetting process for caregivers at Hacienda.”
“We will not tolerate any mistreatment of a Hacienda patient, nor will we stop until every Hacienda patient is as safe as we can make them,” it added.