Man accused of leaving baby in Montana wilderness changes plea

Posted at 1:33 PM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-06 15:33:46-05

MISSOULA  – A man who buried a then five-month-old baby alive last year near Lolo Hot Springs has changed his plea.

The baby survived even after he spent hours face down in wet clothing while being partially buried under sticks and debris in the woods.

Francis Crowley, 33, pleaded guilty to criminal endangerment and child criminal endangerment on Tuesday in Missoula District Court. He also entered a “no contest” plea to the assault on a child charge.

Authorities said the child was in Crowley’s care at the time while he was high on meth and bath salts.

Crowley and the child’s mother camped in the area and when others noticed the child was gone, they called the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.

The baby was found in the woods and rushed to the hospital after an extensive search and survived the ordeal. Court papers have identified Crowley as the baby’s uncle.

He will be sentenced on March 12.

-Reported by Connor McCauley/MTN News

(JULY 8, 2018) A man was arrested Saturday after a baby who was left in his care disappeared for several hours near Lolo Hot Springs. The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene around 8 p.m. for reports of a man who was acting strangely in the Lolo Hot Springs area.

While deputies were headed to the scene, additional callers indicated the male suspect was threatening people, saying he had a gun and was reaching in his pockets, according to Missoula County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Brenda Bassett.

Bassett added the deputies arrived at the scene to find that the suspect, Francis Carlton Crowley, 32, had left the area and that a five-month-old who had been left in his care had not been seen for several hours.

While attempting to locate Crowley, a 911 caller said the suspect had returned to the hot springs. Deputies then arrested Crowley who Bassett said appeared to be under the influence of drugs and was not making sense to officers.

Crowley made statements indicating the baby was possibly buried somewhere in the mountains, which prompted the Sheriff’s Office to summon help in locating the baby.

Missoula County Search and Rescue and U.S. Forest Service and Bureau officers along with the Bureau of Land Management, the Montana Highway Patrol, and additional deputies all responded to take part in a ground search.

Bassett said that after more than six hours of searching on foot, a deputy heard the faint cry of a baby. He followed the sound and found the baby alive, face down, and buried under a pile of sticks and debris.

Clothed in only a wet and soiled onesie, the baby was found at approximately 2:30 a.m., putting the infant in the woods unattended and in the cold (approximately 46 degrees) for at least nine hours. The baby was transported to a local hospital and is in good condition.

Crowley is being held at the Missoula County Detention Facility on charges of criminal endangerment and additional charges will follow.