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Baby buried in woods after car crash is recovering, suspect arrested

Montana man told police he left the 5-month-old because it was ‘very heavy’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 3:51am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 4:30am

A Montana man told investigators he left a 5-month-old baby boy in the woods after a weekend car crash because the baby was very heavy, court records said.

Officers found the baby – cold and hungry – under a pile of debris and sticks early on Sunday, about nine hours after the crash.

Francis Carlton Crowley, 32, is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday on charges of assault on a minor and criminal endangerment.

Deputies were called to Lolo Hot Springs, Montana, at 8pm Saturday because Crowley was creating a disturbance and threatening to fire a gun, Missoula County prosecutors said. Officers learned that he and the baby had been in a crash earlier that day.

Crowley was disoriented, likely because of drug use, and unable to help officers find the baby or say when the crash had occurred, charging documents said.

The nature of his relationship to the child has not been disclosed.

He variously said the baby was lying on the side of the road or had died and was buried in the woods.

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Federal, state and local agencies joined the search, and US Forest Service Officer Nick Scholz arrived with an off-highway vehicle. He and Missoula County Deputy Ross Jessop followed a forest road on which Crowley said he had travelled.

Eventually, they spotted Crowley’s crashed car, but the baby was not inside, court records said.

Officers followed a trail of personal items, including baby formula and a diaper bag, down the slope from the crash. Jessop and Scholz then searched upslope from the crash, following a game trail until they heard a faint noise at about 2:30am.

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Missoula County Deputy Ross Jessop found the baby face down, covered in small sticks and dressed in only a wet and soiled onesie.

The child 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.

Crowley, who acknowledged using methamphetamine, was jailed, with his bail set at US$50,000.

“For all of us at the sheriff’s office, this is what we call a miracle,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Monday. “For the officers who were present for this event, it’s especially hard knowing what this small baby endured in the last 24 hours.”