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Baby In Woods

This Sunday, July 8, 2018 photo provided by the Missoula County Sheriff's Office shows a 5-month-old infant with dirt under their fingernails after authorities say the baby survived about nine hours being buried under sticks and debris in the woods. The Missoula County Sheriff's Office says the baby is in good condition at a hospital and calls it a "miracle" that the child survived the weekend ordeal. Authorities say they were called about a man threatening people in the Lolo Hot Springs area of western Montana's Lolo National Forest. Deputies apprehended the man who indicated that the baby was buried somewhere in the woods. (Missoula County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Francis Crowley collapsed and wept Tuesday in Missoula County Justice Court as he was read charges that he assaulted and abandoned a 5-month-old infant in the woods near Lolo Hot Springs on Saturday.

“Hang on, hang on, you’ve gotta come back,” Andersen said, before Crowley reappeared with a chair and sat down.

The 32-year-old Oregon man faces felony charges of assault on a minor under 36 months old, and criminal endangerment. Both counts carry maximums of 10 years in prison and $50,000 in fines.

Andersen agreed with Deputy County Attorney Brittany Williams’ request for a $200,000 bond for Crowley, who is wanted for fleeing the criminal justice system in Oregon. He’d been held on $50,000 bond for criminal endangerment since his arrest Saturday evening, several hours before the baby boy was found cold and exhausted, but alive, under a pile of sticks and branches on a heavily wooded hillside near Lolo Hot Springs.

According to court documents Crowley was banned from the hot springs but was reported to have returned Saturday night and was threatening to fire a gun. Responding officers spoke with witnesses, including the baby’s mother, and learned that Crowley had crashed a car in which the baby, identified as “G.C.,” was the passenger.

Crowley had disappeared into the woods by the time deputies arrived, but later returned and was apprehended.

“Officers quickly ascertained that he was under the influence of dangerous drugs, based on his behavior and admissions to ingesting methamphetamine and bath salts,” the affidavit said.

Crowley was unable to take officers to the baby’s location. He variously said the boy was lying on the side of the road or had died and was buried in the woods.

An intensive search involving sheriff’s department and U.S. Forest Service officers as well as Missoula Search and Rescue, the Bureau of Land Management and the Montana Highway Report ended at 2:30 a.m. Sunday when the infant was found cold and exhausted in remote woods a mile off Highway 12 southwest of Lolo Hot Springs (see related story).

The baby was taken by ambulance to a Missoula hospital, according to charging documents. On the way he began coughing up small sticks. He was treated for dehydration, lack of food and scratches, cuts and bruises and was placed in the custody of the Department of Public Health and Human Services. On Monday he was reported as doing well.

In a subsequent statement to law enforcement, Crowley said after he crashed the car he began walking with the baby but "eventually ... left the baby, as he was very heavy."

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Crowley couldn't say what time that was, only that it was hot outside. The baby had been in his care since 7:30 a.m. Saturday. 

Among Williams’ reasons for recommending the $200,000 bond for Crowley was his extensive criminal history, mostly in Oregon dating back to a felony burglary conviction in Oregon in 2005. Williams said in succeeding years he was convicted of attempted robbery, fourth-degree felony assault witnessed by a minor, second-degree burglary, possession of meth, felony criminal mischief and burglary and failure to appear.

Crowley was held last month in the Missoula County jail as a fugitive from Oregon but was released when that state refused to extradite him. One of Andersen’s conditions for Crowley should he make bail is that he have no contact with the mother of the child, who lives and works at Lolo Hot Springs.

Willliams said after the hearing that there are no pending charges against the mother but the case remains under investigation.

“I can’t say for sure whether she’ll be charged or not,” the deputy county attorney said.

Andersen set a preliminary hearing date for Crowley of Wednesday, July 25, at 4 p.m.

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