A baby was found alive in Montana after spending at least nine hours unattended in the mountains, buried under a pile of sticks and debris, cops say.
The baby had reportedly been left in the care of Francis Carlton Crowley, 32; however, Crowley was later found alone and under what the Missoula County Sheriff's Office believe was the influence of drugs, according to a police statement. Crowley was later arrested and charged with criminal endangerment in connection with the incident.
According to the statement, law enforcement officers were initially contacted about 8 p.m. Saturday night after receiving a call about a male "who was acting strange" in the Lolo Hot Springs area. Additional callers also said the man had a gun and was "reaching in his pockets," the statement said.
When officers arrived on the scene, the suspect was gone but law enforcement officers learned there was a 5-month-old baby who had been left in his care that had not been seen for several hours.
Crowley later returned to the area and was apprehended by deputies.
"When trying to question Crowley, he appeared to be under the influence of drugs and was not making sense to officers," the statement said.
Deputies quickly learned that the baby could be in significant danger. With little information to go on, other than that the baby may be buried "somewhere in the mountains," deputies quickly assembled a ground search team that also enlisted the help of the Missoula County Search and Rescue, the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Montana Highway Patrol.
The team searched for more than six hours throughout the cold night, before a deputy heard the faint cry of a baby around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday.
"He followed the sound and found the baby alive, face down, buried under a pile of sticks and debris," the Sheriff's Office wrote.
Law enforcement officers estimate it was 46 degrees outside when the baby was found, wearing only a wet and soiled onesie.
"For all of us at the sheriffs office, this is what we call a miracle," they wrote. "For the officers who were present for this event, its especially hard knowing what this small baby endured in the last 24 hours."
Despite the harrowing ordeal, the baby appears to be in good health and only suffered minor scrapes and bruises, according to The Missoulian. The baby has been referred to Child and Family Services, the paper reported citing a statement from the Sheriff's Office.
According to the Missoula County Jail, Crowley remains in custody on a $50,000 bond. He has been charged with felony criminal endangerment; however, more charges could follow at a later date.
This latest arrest is not Crowley's first time in the Missoula County Jail. Crowley was also arrested and detained at the Missoula County Jail earlier this summer on a fugitive warrant from Oregon.
“They ended up deciding not to extradite him so he was released,” deputy attorney Jason Marks told The Missoulian.
[Photo: Missoula County Jail]