Psychologist mom crashed SUV in attempt to kill self, infant son, police say

Julia Jacquelyn Alzoubaidi, 34, of Sioux Falls, is charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder and abuse or cruelty to a child under the age of 7, records show. The Argus Leader reported that bail has been set at $250,000. 

According to the court documents, computer data from Alzoubaidi’s Mazda CX-5 indicate she accelerated from 50 mph to 70 mph just before the crash. She never hit the brakes, the arrest affidavit says. 

KELO-TV in Sioux Falls said that Avera Health confirmed Alzoubaidi is a psychologist within the health care system. By Thursday morning, her profile page on the system’s website had been removed. 

“Our hearts go out to the Alzoubaidi family during this incredibly difficult time, and we are holding them in our prayers,” Avera Health said in a statement obtained by The Argus Leader

Sioux Falls police spokesman Sam Clemens said 911 dispatchers received a call around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday about a vehicle that had left Interstate 229 near Minnesota Avenue and rolled into a ditch. The scene of the crash is close to the Big Sioux River.  

The court documents say that Minnesota state troopers were first on the scene. 

“As they made their way to the SUV, they heard splashing and moaning near the river,” the arrest affidavit said. 

One of the troopers found Alzoubaidi facedown in the river under a bridge that crossed a culvert, the document said. He pulled her to shore, where he found her unresponsive, but breathing and shivering. 

The temperature at the time was 37 degrees, with a wind chill of 32 degrees, the affidavit said. 

Alzoubaidi’s 6-month-old son was found on the bank of the river, wet, cold and not breathing. The affidavit says the troopers began CPR and continued performing it until Sioux Falls fire medics arrived.

Both Alzoubaidi and the baby were taken to Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center for treatment. According to the arrest affidavit, the baby was rushed into the pediatric intensive care unit, where he was treated for hypothermia and aspiration pneumonia, or water in his lungs. 

Meanwhile, the first responders were unsure if there were more victims in the water. Clemens told reporters the morning of the crash that the uncertainty of the situation resulted in a large response -- 15 patrol cars from the Highway Patrol and Sioux Falls Police Department, as well as two fire trucks and a rescue unit. 

“I think part of it was they thought it was going to be a water rescue,” Clemens said. “Both of them had been in the water at some point in time. I think that was probably part of the response.”

Initially, first responders also believed more people might have been involved in the crash, but Alzoubaidi’s husband, when reached by police, was able to confirm his wife and son were likely the only people in the vehicle, Clemens said. 

See Clemens brief the media on the crash and the charges against Alzoubaidi below, courtesy of The Argus Leader.

The troopers noted that all the doors on the SUV were closed, except the door next to the infant boy’s child safety seat, and they determined that Alzoubaidi and her son were not ejected into the water.

A suicide note was found in the vehicle, the affidavit says. The note, the contents of which were included in the affidavit, indicated that Alzoubaidi believed her son had signs of reactive attachment disorder. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child fails to establish healthy attachments with his parents or caregivers. 

“Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child's basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established,” the Mayo Clinic website says. Signs of the disorder include a failure to smile, a listless appearance, failure to seek comfort or respond when comfort is given, failure to engage in social interaction and a failure to reach out when picked up. 

“The prognosis is poor and I couldn’t let him live a life of misery and pain,” Alzoubaidi wrote in her suicide note. “Most kiddos I know with the disorder are institutionalized, suicidal and homicidal and tortured souls. (Name redacted) doesn’t deserve that.”

The note also indicated she blamed herself for her son’s condition and believed she’d caused her husband nothing but pain, the affidavit says.

Read the affidavit seeking an arrest warrant for Julia Alzoubaidi below. 

According to the document, Alzoubaidi told emergency room staff treating her that she believed her son had the disorder because he did not enjoy being held. 

“When she picked the baby up, he would cry,” the affidavit reads. “The defendant told the ER staff that her solution was to kill the baby and herself.”

Alzoubaidi’s husband told investigators that he did not worry when his wife was not in bed because she often woke during the night to feed their son or pump breast milk, the affidavit said. He did not realize anything was wrong until he was awakened by police officers knocking on the door around 4 a.m.

He told officers he was aware that his wife was concerned about the possibility of reactive attachment disorder, but he did not know his wife intended to harm their son or herself, the document says. 

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Alzoubaidi reiterated her concerns when investigators interviewed her in the hospital, the affidavit says. She said the lack of bonding she felt with her son made her feel “inadequate as a mother.”

“(Alzoubaidi) sought assistance and advice from her peers and colleagues,” the affidavit says. “This intervention helped for a time, and then she stated her thoughts would eventually turn to ending her life.”

Alzoubaidi’s husband told detectives his wife suffered from anxiety and depression, but that she had gone off her medication during her pregnancy and while breastfeeding their son, the document said. 

As of Wednesday, both Alzoubaidi and her son remained hospitalized, KELO-TV reported