We learned more Tuesday about the extraordinary details surrounding last weekend’s rescue of a baby boy from under a debris pile in the forest near Lolo Hot Springs. Some credit the infant’s rescue to remarkable police work. Others chalk it up to a one-in-a-million lucky shot. To Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputy, Ross Jessop, it was nothing less than an act of God.
“It was a miracle. I’d prepared myself mentally to find a dead baby, if at all. Seeing and hearing that baby overcame me with so much joy — and I have three kids, they’re all girls — I’ll never, ever doubt the Lord.”
Jessop found the 5-month-old baby boy in the wee hours of last Sunday morning, following a car crash in the area. The driver told authorities that a baby was in the car with him.
During a Facebook Live press conference hosted Tuesday by NBC Montana, Jessop said the hours-long, exhaustive search involving federal, state and local authorities literally concluded with a whimper.
“The sound I heard was an exhausted, tired baby who didn’t have the lung capacity to cry anymore. Just a very faint whimper.”
U.S. Forest Service Officer Nick Scholtz searched with Jessop all night long.
"At that point we just started running in that direction where we were hearing that baby voice, and then I saw you pick up the baby,” Scholtz said.
Again, Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputy Ross Jessop.
“He was so well-concealed, mind you. I have a headlight and a 500, 600 lumen candle power flashlight with me, and I was literally taking a step and was about ready to walk on top of the baby’s head. I heard the sticks crack. When I looked down I saw a baby face down. I uncovered him and immediately picked him up. He was cold. He was wet and soiled; couldn’t even cry. We wrapped him up. One of the search and rescue folks with us, he doesn’t want to be named – Aaron St Pierre – gave us his down coat and a beanie hat. We covered that baby up and walked him out.”
Despite being cold, hungry wet and soiled the baby was otherwise in remarkable condition for being buried under sticks in the woods for roughly 9 hours.
Law enforcement says the man accused of leaving him there was virtually useless to the search teams.
32-year-old Francis Crowley crashed his car Saturday night with the baby inside. He didn’t offer authorities many specifics. Charging documents say he was disoriented, likely because of drug use.
“We tried to interview him as best we could, but he was basically in a state of mind where we weren’t getting much information at all,” Jessop said.
After exhaustive searching, officials eventually found Crowley’s crash site on an abandoned mountain road. There they found and followed a trail of baby items.
Cowley broke down in court Tuesday after hearing the allegations against him: assault of a minor and criminal endangerment.
The Associated Press reports he doubled over and fell to the floor, twice exclaiming he loves the boy and begged the judge not to take him away.
Bail was set at $200,000. His next court date is set for July 25.
Deputy Ross Jessop is a 10-year veteran of law enforcement and says he’d hit a career low prior to last weekend.
“I’ve gotten to the point where everything’s just so draining, draining emotionally. To experience this, to have God help me; let me experience something like this gives me an extra boost, like, you know what, cops actually do matter sometimes. We actually do a good job. It’s pretty encouraging for me.”