A 5-month-old infant was miraculously found alive after being buried under piles of sticks and debris and left in the Montana wilderness for at least nine hours.
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office received reports of a man “acting strange” in the Lolo Hot Springs area at approximately 8 p.m. Saturday night. Caller told police that the man, Francis Carlton Crowley, 32, was threatening people and claimed to have a gun. Worse yet, a 5-month-old boy that had been left in Crowley’s care had not been seen for several hours.
Joined by Local Search and Rescue and members of the United States Forest Service, deputies launched a massive search for the missing infant.
“All night long, I was preparing myself mentally to find a dead baby,” said Ross Jessop, a Missoula County sheriff’s deputy. “I was losing my faith … that the baby was even alive.” Then, after more than 6 hours of searching on foot, Jessop heard “the small whimpering of a child.”
The baby was found “face down, buried under a pile of sticks and debris,” police said in a statement. He was dressed only in a wet and soiled onesie.
It was about 46 degrees that night.
“I was so overcome with emotion … I just wrapped that baby up just like a father would any child in need,” Jessop said. “He settled in pretty good. He was coughing a little bit, he actually coughed up a few sticks out of his mouth.”
The baby was taken to a local hospital where he is reported to be in surprisingly good condition. He has been referred to the state Division of Child and Family Services.
Crowley has been charged with felony assault of a minor under 36 months and felony criminal endangerment.
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