Facebook Twitter

Newborn abducted from LDS Hospital

But infant boy is quickly and safely restored to parents

SHARE Newborn abducted from LDS Hospital
Anthony Archuleta answers questions on the kidnapping of his son. Behind him is security guard Jon Atherley, who made the arrest.

Anthony Archuleta answers questions on the kidnapping of his son. Behind him is security guard Jon Atherley, who made the arrest.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

The overhead speakers at LDS Hospital on Tuesday morning blared out the words "Code Pink" — not an uncommon announcement in any urban hospital along the Wasatch Front, where staffers regularly practice what to do if they hear that a newborn has been abducted.

But this was no drill.

A woman dressed in blue scrubs went into a patient's room about 11:20 a.m. and told a new mother that she was taking the baby boy for a circumcision. She said they'd be back within 20 minutes.

Instead, police say, she took the 3-day-old boy from the hospital.

But within the hour, Salt Lake police had made an arrest and the baby was back in his mother's arms.

"She said she didn't have a baby and she was (at the hospital) to get a baby," Salt Lake police detective Dwayne Baird said of the woman arrested.

Elizabeth Alarid, 39, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail Tuesday for investigation of kidnapping. She has an extensive criminal history, mostly involving felony thefts and traffic violations, and had been booked into jail 11 times, dating back to 1991, according to a check of jail and court records.

Here's how the story unfolded, with many of the details provided to media at a news conference Tuesday afternoon:

Alarid, of Salt Lake City, allegedly flashed what looked like a hospital ID card at Tina Marie Archuleta, 21, and said she needed to take baby Zackaria, who had been born Sunday. She left with the baby and abandoned his bassinet by the elevator.

Staffers saw her walking with the baby in her arms and questioned her because that's not how babies are transported by staff, said Sandra Towns, director of Women's Services at the hospital. She identified herself as the baby's aunt and agreed to take the boy back to his mother.

Alarid — who is not related to the Archuletas — never returned to the room, Towns said. Meanwhile, the baby's mother was growing impatient and she asked staff where circumcisions were done. But Zackaria wasn't there.

"Yeah," Zackaria's father, Anthony Archuleta, Ogden, replied when asked if he was scared. "Everybody in this room would be scared if (this) happened to them. I didn't think that I was going to get him back. If she was in a car, he could've been gone."

Alarid apparently went to the second floor, where she attracted attention because that's not a place where newborns are normally seen. Suspicious, two medical records staffers followed Alarid out of the hospital, trailing her one block south and two east to the Smith's Food and Drug at 402 Sixth Ave.

At the same time, hospital security guard Jon Atherley was winding his way to the store, asking neighborhood residents if they had see a woman and a baby.

Just inside the store's front door, Atherley found Alarid rocking away on a patio bench swing with a green and tan awning. The baby was unharmed.

"She said it was her niece's baby," said Atherley, who didn't try to take the child from Alarid. "I did not want to make a big scene. She was not hostile or anything like that. And she wasn't hurting him. She was cuddling him."

"It couldn't have worked out any better," said Baird, adding that every available police officer within earshot raced to the Avenues to aid in the search.

Towns said to her knowledge, Tuesday was the first time a newborn had been taken from the hospital. The Code Pink alert, she said, worked as it should.

The code triggers a series of much-practiced and not-talked-about activities to secure the hospital and try to find the newborn. Staffers keep Code Pink procedures quiet to avoid helping someone circumvent them, said hospital spokesman Jess Gomez.

The doors in the maternity unit lock and more detailed information, like a description of a suspect, is quietly disseminated throughout the hospital. A pager-alert system is also activated. Every hospital in the state has some sort of Code Pink system, tailored to meet its own geography and needs. University Hospital, for instance, practices often and "every time, after, we review what went well and what didn't," said Phil Sahm, a hospital spokesman. "Refinements are constantly being made to the drill."

Other hospitals report much the same thing about security: Frequent drills (no hospital contacted by the Deseret Morning News said it has fewer than four a year), some announced and some a surprise. A review and some tweaking, if needed.

The hospital employees who had followed the woman were later given the privilege of returning Zackaria to his parents, Towns said.

Did the Archuletas cry harder when the baby was missing or when he was returned?

"Both," a beaming Anthony Archuleta said.


E-mail: lois@desnews.com; jdobner@desnews.com