Montana police found a baby buried by chasing its cries through a forest. USA TODAY
A 5-month-old infant who had been buried under piles of sticks and debris in Montana wilderness was miraculously found alive — at least nine hours later. The man accused of abandoning the child said the infant was too “heavy.”
Police received reports of a man “acting strange” around Lolo Hot Springs, Montana, around 8 p.m. Saturday. As they headed to the area, more reports came in saying the man was threatening people, claiming to have a gun.
Francis Carlton Crowley, 32, had left the area by the time Missoula County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived. Even more concerning: A 5-month-old baby boy that was left in Crowley’s care hadn’t been seen for several hours.
When deputies were able to locate him, police said he appeared intoxicated and made statements indicating the baby might be buried somewhere in the mountains. A host of departments, including local Search and Rescue officers as well as members of the United States Forest Service, came together to look for the missing infant.
“After more than 6 hours of searching on foot, a deputy heard the faint cry of a baby,” police said in a statement. “He followed the sound and found the baby alive, face down, buried under a pile of sticks and debris.”
The baby was clothed only in a wet and soiled onesie, police said. It was about 46 degrees that night.
In court on Tuesday, an emotional Crowley told investigators he left the infant in the woods after crashing his car, because the child was “heavy,” court documents state. He told the judge he loved the child and pleaded not to be taken away.
Sheriff’s officials said Crowley, the child’s mother and the infant were living in a camp near the hot springs in Lolo National Forest. Crowley’s relationship to the baby wasn’t immediately clear.
Crowley did not enter a plea during the court hearing. His bail was set at $200,000.
Crowley has previously been arrested for burglary, assault, drug and criminal mischief charges, Deputy County Attorney Brittany Williams said.
The baby was taken to a local hospital, where authorities say he is in good condition. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Brenda Bassett said in a statement Monday the baby suffered only minor scrapes and bruising.
“For all of us at the sheriff’s office, this is what we call a miracle,” police said.
Custody of the child has been referred to the state Division of Child and Family Services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Ashley May on Twitter: @AshleyMayTweets