Police asking for info from public in case of child born to woman in vegetative state at facility

PHOENIX (AP/FOX 10) -- On Wednesday, Phoenix Police officials provided more information on a case involving a child who was born to a woman in vegetative state at Hacienda Healthcare.

In a news conference held Wednesday afternoon, Sgt. Tommy Thompson termed the investigation a "sexual assault investigation", and also laid out certain details leading up to the investigation so far.

"As a police officer for 35 years, this is a case that even shocks my conscience, to think that something like this could occur," said Sgt. Thompson.

Sgt. Thompson said police were called to the facility, located on the 1400 block of E. South Mountain Avenue, on 3:42 p.m. on December 29, in response to a call of an infant who had "coded", a term described by Sgt. Thompson as being used in a radio call to describe someone who in distress, not breathing, and/or unconscious.

When officers arrived, Sgt. Thompson said they found that the woman who gave birth was in her 20s, and was unable to move or communicate. The woman and the baby were taken to an unidentified local hospital, and both are doing well.

"She was not in a position to give consent to any of this," said Sgt. Thompson. "So if anyone can understand that, this was a helpless victim who was sexually assaulted."

According to a statement issued Tuesday night by officials with the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the woman is identified as a 29-year-old enrolled member of the tribe, who has been in a persistent vegetative state for over a decade.

Sgt. Thompson said investigators with the Phoenix Police Department Family Investigations Bureau - Sex Crimes Bureau were called out to conduct a sexual assault investigation. Sgt. Thompson explained why Phoenix Police waited to release information on the case, saying there was a "window of opportunity" for investigators to gather evidence and information.

Sgt. Thompson also said search warrants have been issued by a Superior Court judge to obtain DNA. In a statement issued by Hacienda Healthcare on Tuesday, the DNA search warrants have been served to obtain DNA from male Hacienda Healthcare staff members. Sgt. Thompson said on Wednesday it is not known whether anyone has declined to give DNA evidence by subjecting themselves to a buccal swab, or a collection of DNA from cells on the inside of a person's cheek.

"When we ask people to give DNA, sometimes the main reason is to rule them out," said Sgt. Thompson.

The incident has attracted international attention, and since news of the incident surfaced, the CEO of Hacienda Healthcare, Bill Timmons, resigned from his position amidst mounting controversy. Sgt. Thompson also said since news of the incident surfaced, there have been some threats made to the facility.

So far, a suspect has not been identified in the case, and the investigation, Sgt. Thompson said, is a long-term investigation. In addition, Sgt. Thompson said Phoenix Police are asking for the public's help for any information pertaining to the case. Anyone with information should call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS. Spanish speakers can leave an anonymous tip by calling Testigo Silencioso at 480-TESTIGO.

Si tiene alguna información sobre este caso, llame a la línea de Testigo Silencioso (480-TESTIGO, 480-837-8446).

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

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