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A former attorney with Arizona’s Maricopa County will lead an investigation into how a 29-year-old woman, incapacitated since age 3, was sexually assaulted and gave birth last month at a health facility in Arizona. CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO-TV reports the board of directors at Hacienda HealthCare made the announcement Sunday and Rick Romley will be in charge of the “exhaustive” internal review.
KPHO-TV said Romley will have “unfettered access” to all aspects of the facility’s operations and procedures.
the woman, who had been in a vegetative state for 14 years after a near-drowning, delivered a healthy baby boy Dec. 29.
The station later reported the woman is Native American, and San Carlos Apache officials said the woman was an enrolled member of the tribe, whose reservation is in southeastern Arizona some 134 miles east of Phoenix.
In a statement, tribal officials concurred the woman was in a vegetative state when she gave birth.
The woman’s name was redacted from the tribal statement.
It was unclear if staff members at the facility were aware of her pregnancy until the birth, but KPHO-TV quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying, “None of the staff were aware that she was pregnant until she was pretty much giving birth.”
Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler said, “On behalf of the tribe, I am deeply shocked and horrified at the treatment of one of our members. “When you have a loved one committed to palliative care, when they are most vulnerable and dependent upon others, you trust their caretakers. Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her. It is my hope that justice will be served.”
A lawyer for the woman’s family released a statement Tuesday saying the family was outraged at the “neglect of their daughter” and was asking for privacy.
“The family would like me to convey that the baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for,” Phoenix attorney John Micheaels said in a statement.
San Carlos Apache Police Chief Alejandro Benally said Phoenix police “will do all they can to find the perpetrator” and his department will assist “in any way possible.”
In a statement, board member Gary Orman said the facility “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation.”
“We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of every single one of our patients and our employees,” Orman said.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s office has called the situation “deeply troubling.”
Phoenix police said they have not ruled out anyone and are still gathering DNA from all the facility’s male employees.
“She was not in a position to give consent to any of this,” police spokesman Tommy Thompson said. “So if anyone can understand that, this was a helpless victim who was sexually assaulted.”