MISSOULA, Mont. — Investigators say Francis Crowley was high on meth and bath salts when he rammed his car through a steep, wooded area, then took off on foot with his sister's 5-month-old infant in July of 2018.
RELATED: Part one of this two-part series can be viewed here.
Officers are revealing evidence showing the baby had been strangled.
"I know he made statements to that effect. I saw the bruises. It was pretty clear to me what I could see on his neck. I'm extremely confident that's what happened," said Missoula County Sheriff's Department Captain Bill Burt.
When officers responded to a disturbance call at Lolo Hot Springs, Crowley made wild statements to them during their investigation, including that he had killed and buried a baby somewhere in the Lolo National Forest.
"He told me he killed him. He told me he drove over a cliff and that he buried him. He said he was dead. He said he buried him alive," said Missoula County Sheriff's Deputy Ross Jessop.
With the search downhill from the wreckage site of Crowley's four-door sedan going nowhere, Jessop looked for one last option to find the baby.
"I had prayed down at the bottom of the creek. I asked God to please help me find (the baby)," said Jessop.
Jessop was frustrated. He needed to clear his head, so he got away from the search area by going uphill.
U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Nick Scholz went with him.
"It wasn't until 15 to 20 minutes into heading uphill that we heard that little whimper. I just remember running up to the right, where we heard that sound," said Scholz.
The officers found the baby, face down, against a steep, hollowed-out embankment, with sticks and debris covering his body from head to toe.
"I was crunching down sticks. Something made me look down. I was literally going to crunch down on its head with 220 pounds of body and gear," said Jessop.
"I just remember Ross picking up this baby and saying, 'Baby,' and bringing it right to his chest," said Scholz.
"It was going to be, from the time we found him, a matter of minutes to less than a couple of hours that he would have been dead. He would have frozen to death. He would have gotten hypothermia. He was completely out of air," said Jessop.
Officers believe a hand of protection had to have been on the infant.
"It wasn't just what Francis did to him -- the strangulation. It wasn't the ride through these trees and being buried. He also had extreme temperatures. There's all kinds of birds of prey. We have fox, coyote, wolves. There are bears," said Missoula County Sheriff's Department Captain Bill Burt.
"It was probably 90 degrees on the side of this mountain when the baby was buried up here, underneath the sticks. At that time when we found him 12 to 13 hours later, it was probably in the low 40s. It was a huge change in temperature. He was just dressed in a baby's onesie," said Scholz.
Evidence photos confirm the baby was left face down.
The officers can only explain finding a baby in such a vast forest one way.
"This whole thing was a miracle. Whether you believe in God or divine intervention, something happened that night to protect (the baby)," said Jessop.
Law enforcement believe the child remains under state protection.
Crowley recently cut a deal with prosecutors and is now serving 20 years in prison and 10 years on probation for assault of a minor, criminal endangerment and child criminal endangerment.