Officers describe faint whimper, finding abandoned infant
MISSOULA, Mont. — A faint whimper in the darkness was all it took.
Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputy Ross Jessop and U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Nick Scholz rushed toward the sound after hours spent searching the Montana woods for a missing infant.
Jessop was about to take another step when he heard a stick crack underfoot. He looked down to find a cold, wet, soiled 5-month-old boy face-down under a pile of debris.
“I abandoned any police training or any chance of saving evidence there — I didn’t care,” Jessop, a father of three, told reporters on Tuesday. “I scooped up the baby, made sure he was breathing. He had a sparkle in his eye. (I) warmed him up, gave him a couple of kisses and just held him.”
The baby, who had been abandoned for at least nine hours before Jessop and Scholz found him at 2:30 a.m. Sunday, was cold, hungry and had scrapes and bruises, but was otherwise in good condition. They wrapped him in a coat and carried the boy out of the woods to safety.
“It was the happiest 1520 minutes of my career,” Scholz said of the walk out. “I was just stunned. Walking in to this situation, you were mentally prepared for the worst.”
The baby drank a whole bottle of Pedialyte in under a minute, then drank two more, said Missoula County Sheriff’s Capt. Bill Burt. The baby’s tiny, dirty hand grasped Burt’s finger with surprising strength, then he fell soundly asleep as hospital officials hooked him up to an IV, Burt said.
The rescue that Sheriff T.J. McDermott called a miracle was recounted moments before Francis Crowley, 32, appeared in court to hear charges against him that included assault on a minor and criminal endangerment. Crowley told investigators he left the boy in the woods after crashing his car because the baby was heavy, according to court records. He appeared in Missoula County Justice Court from jail by video, and he broke down repeatedly.
Public defender Ted Fellman said Crowley had no money and was living near Lolo Hot Springs. Sheriff’s officials said Crowley, the child’s mother and the boy were living in a camp near the hot springs.
The nature of Crowley’s relationship to the baby was not immediately clear.
Crowley did not enter a plea during the hearing. Judge Marie Andersen set bail at $200,000 and scheduled his next court date for July 25.