PHOENIX — The arrest of Nathan Sutherland, a former licensed practical nurse from Hacienda Healthcare comes as a big shock to those who worked with him.
Phoenix police charged Sutherland with sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult Wednesday morning, and said DNA they obtained from Sutherland was a perfect match with DNA obtained from a baby born to an incapacitated woman who was one of Sutherland's patients at Hacienda Healthcare.
Eleanora Riggers who is now a licensed practical nurse worked as a respiratory therapist at Hacienda Healthcare for 11 years.
She worked closely with Sutherland to help care for the victim involved in this case.
Riggers described Sutherland as a friend, fun and outgoing man who was liked by almost everyone.
She admitted that news of this arrest had shaken her to the core.
"I cried. I just cried and cried. I think he is a coward. I think he is the lowest scum imaginable because I considered him a friend," Riggers said.
She also worried about the other patients in the same wing as the victim, whom Sutherland had to care for as well.
Riggers said there were many women who were about the same age as the victim in that wing, and just like the victim, some were not able to communicate verbally.
Riggers admitted when she worked at Hacienda Healthcare, staff had been lax about doing the 15-minute bed checks they were required to do every day.
"In every facility things are more lax at night. I can tell you that in every facility it's lax at night," Riggers said.
Hacienda officials have said they are stepping up security, but Riggers said she worried it would not last long and things could get lax again without strict state oversight.
She said her heart went out to the victim and her family, and still questioned how a full term pregnancy could have been overlooked by medical staff in the facility.
"Trust has taken a giant hit. How do you get that trust back when everything is so tipsy turvy and violated right now? I want him to know that I feel violated too. I feel betrayed. I feel he betrayed everybody. He betrayed his employer and he betrayed his clients," Riggers said.
Hacienda Healthcare staff released this statement today:
"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. Once again, we offer an apology and send our deepest sympathies to the client and her family, to the community and to our agency partners at every level. Nathan Sutherland, who held a current state of Arizona practical nurse's license and who had undergone an extensive background check upon hiring - was terminated from Hacienda the moment our leadership team learned of his arrest. As we have since the first minutes of this police investigation, the Hacienda team will continue to cooperate with investigators from multiple agencies in every way possible. We will do everything in our power to ensure justice in this case. In the past two weeks, the Hacienda team has increased security measures to ensure the safety of all our patients. We will continue to do so. We also 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."