GILBERT, Ariz. — We're learning more about the past of the nurse accused of raping and impregnating a disabled patient at Hacienda HealthCare.
Nathan Sutherland, 36, spent much of his young life in Gilbert. Classmates, a former teacher and a former coach describe him as a nice, fairly popular student during his time at Mesquite High School.
”I think I’m still kind of in shock," said Rachel Stafford, a teacher at Mesquite High School.
Like many across the nation, Stafford heard the news about an incapacitated woman at Hacienda HealthCare who was raped and impregnated. The woman gave birth on Dec. 29 after employees say they had no idea she was pregnant until the baby was crowning.
“I was kind of shocked like how could anyone do this?” said Stafford.
Stafford never thought the suspect would be a former student.
“I looked it up I was like 'oh my gosh I know that kid,'" said Stafford.
Stafford taught Sutherland's English class during his sophomore year from 1998 to 1999.
“Fairly popular kid. Well known and you know just kind of happy go lucky at the time," Stafford described.
Stafford found a message in her old yearbook from Sutherland. It said, "Thanks for being a good teach this year. Have a cool summer. From Nate."
Stafford's husband was one of Sutherland's football coaches at Mesquite High School.
“He would have never thought that this kid who was a leader and a motivator and really tried to build up his teammates would have turned into a person who would commit a crime," said Stafford.
After high school, nursing records show Sutherland completed the nursing program at Fortis College in Phoenix. He passed his practical nursing exam in 2011.
A police DNA sample ultimately linked Sutherland to the heinous crime. Sutherland now faces charges of sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse.
“I just really hope that justice is served but as well that personal justice for him to get the help he needs," said Stafford.
The Arizona State Board of Nursing is investigating Sutherland. The Board will meet Friday at 3 p.m. to discuss suspending his practical nursing license.