The Missoula County Sheriff's Office is calling it a "miracle" that a 5-month-old infant allegedly abandoned in the woods near Lolo Hot Springs was found alive nine hours later buried under a pile of sticks and debris.
Francis Carlton Crowley, 32, has been arrested on a charge of criminal endangerment. Additional charges will follow, the sheriff's office said in a press release.
"For all of us at the sheriff's office, this is what we call a miracle," the release said. "For the officers who were present for this event, it's especially hard knowing what this small baby endured in the last 24 hours. Sheriff McDermott would like to thank those who assisted in the search and those who called 911, helping first responders bring this baby to safety."
The baby was transported to a local hospital and is in good condition, the release said.
Here's how the events unfolded, according to the sheriff's office press release:
Sheriffs were called at approximately 8 p.m. because a man was acting strange in the Lolo Hot Springs area.
While deputies were en route, additional callers indicated the man was threatening people, saying he had a gun and was reaching in his pockets. Upon arrival, deputies discovered the man had left the area and that a 5-month-old who had been left in his care had not been seen for several hours.
While attempting to locate Crowley, a 911 caller said the man had returned to the hot springs. Deputies responded and Crowley was apprehended. When officers tried to question Crowley, he appeared to be under the influence of drugs and was not making sense.
Statements made by Crowley indicated the baby was possibly buried somewhere in the mountains. Due to the urgency of this matter, members of Missoula County Search and Rescue were paged to assist officers from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Montana Highway Patrol and Missoula County deputies in a ground search.
After more than six hours of searching on foot, a deputy heard the faint cry of a baby. He followed the sound and found the baby alive, face down, buried under a pile of sticks and debris. Clothed in only a wet and soiled onesie, the baby was found at approximately 2:30 a.m., putting the infant in the woods unattended and in the cold (approximately 46 degrees) for a minimum of nine hours.
A court hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Monday for Crowley, who's being held in the Missoula County Detention Center on $50,000 bond.