In what is being called a miracle, an infant endured nine hours partially buried in the woods west of Missoula, Mont., according to a statement from the Missoula County Sheriff's Office on Monday.

"For all of us at the sheriff's office, this is what we call a miracle," the statement said.

"For the officers who were present for this event, it's especially hard knowing what this small baby endured in the last 24 hours. Sheriff (T.J.) McDermott would like to thank those who assisted in the search and those who called 911, helping first responders bring this baby to safety," the statement said.

The case started about 8 p.m. Saturday when sheriff's deputies responded to a report about a man acting strange and threatening people in the Lolo Hot Springs area, which is about 50 miles southwest of Missoula.

When deputies arrived, they found the suspect, Francis Carlton Crowley, 32, had left the area and that a 5-month-old baby who had been left in his care had not been seen for several hours.

Meanwhile, someone called dispatch and said Crowley returned to the area and deputies apprehended him, according to the statement. "When trying to question Crowley, he appeared to be under the influence of drugs and was not making sense to officers."

But he made comments indicating the baby was possibly buried somewhere in the mountains.

Because of the urgency of the situation, members of Missoula County Search and Rescue joined a ground search with officers from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Montana Highway Patrol and sheriff's deputies.

About 2:30 a.m. Sunday, after more than six hours of searching on foot, a deputy heard a faint cry, followed the sound, and found the baby alive, face down, buried under a pile of sticks and debris. The baby was unattended and in the cold (about 46 degrees) for at least nine hours.

The baby was clothed only in a wet and soiled onesie, was taken to a local hospital and is in good condition.

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

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