MISSOULA – There was a lot of emotion in the room Tuesday as Missoula County Sheriff’s deputy Ross Jessop and others talked about the moments leading up to finding a child who was left in the woods near Lolo Hot Springs and what it was like to make such an unlikely rescue.
It had been a long, exhausting night for Jessop. Search crews desperate for leads hiked late into the night, coming across debris and footprints, but no baby.
Jessop says he followed his gut, but prepared for the worst.
“I just asked him, would you be willing to walk up a mountain with me? And he said yeah, absolutely," Jessop said. "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 mouth of a five-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 onto him,” Jessop said.
He says the baby was coughing and spat 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 kisses on the forehead and I just looked at him, and couldn’t thank the Lord Jesus enough, I was just so happy.”
The baby was taken to the hospital, where a photo was taken of its small hand clutching the finger of Captain Bill Burt, who says the baby wouldn’t let go while it drank three containers of Pedialite supplements.
Jessop told me that he didn’t like being the center of attention, just that he was 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.