MISSOULA, Mont. — Missoula, Montana deputies say they were acting more like parents than cops when they came across an abandoned baby in the deep western Montana woods over the weekend as they comforted and held the small child after hearing his faint cry.
“I felt more joy in this little baby than I did my own kids, hearing their first breaths. I was completely, completely overcome with emotion,” said Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputy Ross Jessop.
Even as we’re learning more details about the baby’s rescue, detectives are trying to learn more about the man who allegedly left the little boy beneath a pile of sticks — and the child’s mother, who they believe were staying at a primitive camp nearby.
Deputy Jessop and the US Forest Service officer who found the baby early Sunday morning, July 8 were angry as they looked for the child — and then overcome with joy.
There was a lot of emotion in the room Tuesday, July 11 as Deputy Jessop and others talked about the moments leading up to finding this child — and what it was like to make such an unlikely rescue.
It had been a long, exhausting night for Deputy Jessop as search crews desperate for leads hiked late into the night near Lolo Hot Springs, coming across debris, footprints, but no baby.
Deputy Jessop says he followed his gut but was prepared for the worst.
“I just asked him, ‘would you be willing to walk up a mountain with me?’ And he said ‘yeah absolutely.’ And we walked up a ways — about at the top of the, crest of the hill, and we stopped and I even blurted out to Nick several times, ‘Nick I’m so mad that this is happening. I’m so mad that we’re looking for a dead baby.'”
But even after nine hours, the faint cries coming from the mouth of a 5-month-old child prompted the officers to switch off their radios, look down and see the infant lying face down under a pile of sticks.
“Police tactics, police training, they all went out. I saw this little tiny child. My father instincts kicked in and I picked him up — scooped him up. We swaddled him in a down coat and a beanie hat and I just held on to him,” Deputy Jessop recalled.
He said the baby was coughing, and spit sticks out of its mouth.
“He was alert, but just seemed comforted. He did — he peered it my eyes, and I peered into his eyes — and I gave him kiss on the forehead and I just looked at him, and couldn’t thank the Lord Jesus enough. I was just so happy,” Deputy Jessop said.
The baby was taken to the hospital, where a photo was taken of its small hand clutching the finger of Sheriff’s Office Captain Bill Burt, who said the baby wouldn’t let go while he drank three containers of Pedialyte supplements.
Deputy Jessop said he didn’t like being the center of attention — saying he was just the lucky one who got to pick up the baby for the first time. He credits everyone who worked the scene and searched and coordinated those efforts for this remarkable happy ending.
The baby is now in good condition — in the custody of the Department of Child and Family Services.
Meanwhile, prosecutors say Francis Crowley, a fugitive from Oregon, was under the influence of both meth and bath salts when he abandoned the baby after crashing his car on a game trail in the woods.
He is not a stranger to law enforcement.
Crowley — who’s been held on a $200,000 bond after appearing in court on Tuesday, July 10 — has a previous record of arrests in Oregon.
CBS affiliate KOIN-TV reports Crowley — who is is from Portland, Oregon — was arrested in Wasco County in 2013 and 2017. He was also charged with a misdemeanor of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer in March 2018 in Multnomah County.
Crowley’s arrest record dates back to 2004 and includes several misdemeanor and felony charges out of Oregon. He now faces assault on a minor as well as criminal endangerment charges.
Crowley is a fugitive from Oregon, according to Dylan Arthur, executive director for the parole board in Oregon. Crowley was under post-prison supervision for several counts of burglary and one count of criminal mischief.
Crowley’s will be subjected to drug and alcohol testing while remaining in Montana and is to have no contact with the child or the child’s mother if he posts bail in the Missoula County case.
His next court appearance will be on Wednesday, July 25.