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Incapacitated woman who gave birth in care facility not in coma, lawyer says

Probe into Hacienda HealthCare rape case
Former prosecutor hired to probe facility where woman in vegetative state gave birth 03:09

A lawyer for the family of an incapacitated Arizona woman who gave birth in a long-term care facility said she is not in a coma as previously reported. The Arizona Republic reported Friday that attorney John Micheaels said the 29-year-old woman has "significant intellectual disabilities" and does not speak but has some ability to move, responds to sounds and is able to make facial gestures.

Phoenix police have said the woman was the victim of a sexual assault and have disclosed little other information. A Jan. 8 statement by San Carlos Apache Tribe officials said the woman, a tribal member, gave birth while in a coma.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, had been described to CBS affiliate KPHO-TV as being in a vegetative state at the facility where she spent many years. "The important thing here is that contrary to what's been reported, she is a person, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family," Micheaels told the newspaper.

He responded to a request Saturday by The Associated Press for comment by saying in an email that the information reported in the Republic is correct. He did not comment further.

The woman gave birth to a baby boy on Dec. 29 as staff at Hacienda HealthCare frantically called 911 for assistance, telling an operator that they had not known she was pregnant. Police investigators have been collecting DNA samples from male employees at the facility and any other men who could have had contact with the woman.

911 call reveals moment woman in vegetative state gave birth 01:31

State regulatory officials have also launched investigations. The victim and the newborn have reportedly been recovering at a hospital, but no information has been released about their conditions.

The woman's guardian, her mother, described her in a May 29 annual guardian report filed in court as "an incapacitated adult." An attached doctor's report said the woman has a brain disorder, a form of retardation, recurrent pneumonia, paralysis of the limbs, seizure disorder and other conditions.

Hacienda spokesman David Leibowitz told the AP on Saturday that patient privacy laws precluded him from discussing the woman's condition. The director of the facility has resigned and the company subsequently hired former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to conduct an independent investigation into management procedures and patient safety.

A former director of Arizona's lead social services agency told CBS News he asked Gov. Doug Ducey to shut down Hacienda after a 2015 audit revealed concerns of financial fraud, including the facility's annual average cost of care. "This is a failure of the worst and gravest kind, and it's a failure that was avoidable, but at the very least seniors at Hacienda, seniors at the attorney general's office and the governor and his team should have protected her," Timothy Jeffries, former director of the state Department of Economic Security, told CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal.

Jeffries was forced to resign in 2016 for mismanagement, a claim that he denies. The attorney general's office said a criminal case into Hacienda was opened in 2017 but closed due to a lack of evidence, and the governor's office said it acted on Jeffries' concerns and were working to obtain financial documents from Hacienda.

Police ask public for help in investigating how woman gave birth in vegetative state 02:50

On Friday, Hacienda announced that another female patient had alleged physical abuse by staff members. Hacienda officials said in a news release that the patient accused a registered nurse and a certified caregiver, both women, of yelling at her and hitting her head and arm.

Hacienda officials said the patient showed no signs of injury or abuse and that the two workers had no history of complaints and denied the allegations. They were placed on administrative leave during an investigation.

Police said they were informed about the complaint but weren't able to corroborate anything.

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