MISSOULA, MT — A man left to care for a five-month-old boy has been arrested for allegedly burying the infant alive in a forest after a car crash. Nine hours later, police found the baby alive, facedown, under a pile of sticks and leaves.
Francis Carlton Crowley, 32, was reportedly supposed to be caring for the baby on Saturday when he got into a car accident near Lolo Hot Springs and buried the infant.
At about 8 P.M., multiple calls came into 911 about a man behaving in a threatening manner and saying he had a gun. When deputies arrived, the potential suspect was gone, but they learned his name was Francis Crowley and that the baby left in his care had not been seen for hours.
Officers tracked down Crowley and noted that he appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Crowley reportedly admitted to having ingested methamphetamine and bath salts.
When asked about the baby, Crowley told the cops a number of inconsistent statements about how he “possibly buried” the infant “somewhere in the mountains” because the child was “very heavy.”
Local police immediately launched an intense hunt for the boy around the mountains, accompanied by Missoula County Search and Rescue, the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Montana Highway Patrol.
At 2:30 A.M., officers located Crowley’s wrecked car and followed a trail of debris that included formula and a diaper bag until they “heard the faint cry of a baby. ”The rescuers found the infant buried facedown, and clad only in a wet, soiled onesie. The outdoor temperature in the area had dropped by then to just 46 degrees. Authorities rushed the baby to a nearby hospital. He was treated for wounds, lack of food, and dehydration, and is said to be recovering in “good condition.”
In an official statement, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office declared:
“For all of us at the sheriff’s office, this is what we call a miracle. For the officers who were present for this event, it’s especially hard knowing what this small baby endured in the last 24 hours. [We] would like to thank those who assisted in the search and those who called 911, helping first responders bring this baby to safety.”
Francis Carlton Crowley is from Portland, Orgeon. Missoula officers arrested Crowley in June on a fugitive warrant, but cut him loose when Portland decided not to extradite him.
The nature of Crowley’s relationship to the infant has not been made public at this point. Crowley currently faces felony charges of assault on a minor and criminal endangerment. He is being held on $50,000 bail.
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Main photo: Francis Carlton Crowley [Missoula County Sheriff’s Office]