Forensics expert weighs in on DNA testing, following arrest in Hacienda HealthCare investigation

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- 36-year-old Nathan Sutherland is still behind bars Thursday. The man has been identified as a nurse who police accuse of raping one of his incapacitated patients.

The victim, identified as a 29-year-old enrolled member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, gave birth in December. Police say DNA data shows, Sutherland is the baby's father.

In most cases, it can take weeks, even months to get DNA results. In this case, it only took hours. A forensic scientist who worked at Phoenix Police Department's crime lab for 17 years described how Sutherland's DNA was analyzed so quickly.

The victim can't speak in this incident, as she's severely disabled and unresponsive. Her newborn just as vulnerable. Both, however, gave investigators the evidence they needed.

"From those two DNA profiles, an inferred male profile for a potential father can be generated," said Kim Kobojek, ASU's Program Director for the Forensic Science undergraduate program.

Police then swabbed potential suspects, collecting several DNA samples from Hacienda staff members.

"Those DNA profiles are generated and then compared to that inferred male profile in this case," said Kobojek.

Typically, DNA samples are tested in batches, and the whole process includes several steps and analysis. Results can take several months, but this case took just hours to solve. Police say they got a court order to force Sutherland to give his DNA, and that same day, the DNA was tested and analyzed. Kobojek says it was likely tested and analyzed again.

"In all likelihood, they probably had someone there and that was their full focus. So, there could've been some overtime there. Could've been some use of rapid DNA technology," said Kobojek. "Essentially, it's the same technology, but its compressed onto a chip, and all of the procedures are done on that one test cassette."

Sutherland's lawyer denies the evidence, and says they will do their own dna analysis. However, Kobojek says Phoenix's crime lab technology and results are trusted and credible.

"That is all sound. That's been accepted in court," said Sutherland.

Sutherland was still working as an overnight licensed practical nurse at Hacienda until his arrest. A co-worker says he worked in the unit that housed long-term patients, or those with the most severe disabilities. Police say so far, they have not identified any more victims at the nursing facility.

Click here for complete coverage of the Hacienda HealthCare scandal