Officers who found a 5-month-old baby in the woods following a weekend car crash spoke Tuesday about how they came to find the baby, who was believed to have been in the woods for more than nine hours, after expecting the worst.
"When I heard that baby murmur I was so happy," Missoula County Deputy Ross Jessop said during a Tuesday press conference. "I was more happy than hearing my own daughter's cry for the very first time."
Deputies were first called to Lolo Hot Springs at 8 p.m. Saturday because Francis 32-year-old Crowley was allegedly creating a disturbance and threatening to fire a gun, Missoula County prosecutors said.
Officers learned upon arrival that Crowley and a baby had been in a crash earlier that day. Crowley was disoriented, likely due to drug use, and unable to help officers find the baby or say how long ago the crash had occurred, police said.
A search team was put together and U.S. Forest Service Officer Nick Scholz arrived with an off-highway vehicle. He and Jessop followed a forest road on which Crowley said he had traveled.
Eventually, they spotted Crowley’s crashed car, but the baby was not inside, the officers said. In the same area, officers spotted multiple baby items, including formula and diaper bag, and when they eventually heard a small cry at about 2:30 a.m., they sprinted toward the sound.
"I heard the sticks crack when I looked down I saw the baby face-down," Jessop said. "I was literally taking a step and I was about ready to walk on the baby’s head. I immediately just picked him up."
Jessop said the 5-month-old was cold and wet. They said the baby seemed exhausted and didn’t have the lung capacity to cry anymore, but still had a "sparkle in his eye."
Jessop said he warmed him up and gave him a couple of kisses. They wrapped him in another officer’s jacket and carried the infant out of the woods.
The baby was hospitalized and treated for dehydration, lack of food and cuts and bruises.
He has since been placed in the custody of the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Crowley allegedly told police left the baby after the crash because he was too heavy, authorities said.
Crowley later admitted he used methamphetamine and bath salts before the incident, according to court documents. He has been charged with assault on a minor and child endangerment. His bail set was set $50,000.
The nature of Crowley’s relationship to the baby was not immediately clear.