LANCASTER – Several Lancaster deputies spent more than three hours Thursday morning in an intense search for a two-month-old baby boy thought to be abandoned by a drug-addled father.
Shortly after 12 p.m., the infant was safely located in a makeshift shed attached to the garage of a house in the 44100 block of Elm Avenue in Lancaster. The baby was taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Family Services, and the baby’s father, 35-year-old Jimmie Cox, was arrested for child endangerment, according to Lancaster Community Relations deputy Michael Rust.
“It could have been tragic,” Rust said. “There are all kinds of scenarios that could have played out with this.”
The search for the infant began around 9 a.m., when a man called the Lancaster Station to report that a baby had possibly been abandoned by its father, Rust said.
The caller told deputies that, around 1 a.m. this morning, he picked up a man he knew as “Jim” and a baby from the Walgreen’s parking lot, on 20th Street West and Avenue J, and gave them a ride to an alley near 13th Street West and Avenue I, Rust said.
The caller told deputies that when he went home and told his wife the story, his wife became concerned because it was cold outside and sent him back out looking for the baby, Rust said.
The man returned to the alley and found Jim, but the baby was gone, Rust said.
“[Jim] gave him a story that the child was taken to a relative’s house, and then he quickly followed that up with ‘can you help me find the child?’” Rust said, adding that Jim was possibly under the influence of drugs.
“He (the informant) should have called us right away, but for whatever reason he neglected to do that,” Rust said. “He went home and chose to go to sleep… but when he did wake up this morning at 9 he decided to call us.”
By this time, deputies were unable to locate Jim or his baby, so they began to search the neighborhood surrounding the alley where the two were last seen.
“We searched all the trash cans, all of the little nooks and crannies…” Rust said, adding that deputies also went door-to-door looking for witnesses. Deputies also recovered fingerprints from the car used to transport Jim and his baby to the alley, and they got security video from Walgreens showing Jim and the baby.
The baby was wearing just a thin sleeping gown and it was very cold around that time, Rust said.
“Why he was out in the middle of the night with his child, I don’t know… It appears that he has some sort of drug problem,” Rust said.
Deputies eventually found Jim, around 11:30 a.m., roaming the streets near 10th Street West and Avenue J.
“Initially he said he didn’t know what he did with the child, but I think when we brought him here to let him see what kind of a response he was getting and what kind of man hours he was using, he was able to tell us he remembered going to the house on Elm,” Rust said. “That’s what led the deputies over there.”
When deputies went to the home, they learned that Jim and the baby’s mother were living in a shed attached to the rear of the garage.
The baby and mother were found inside the shed, and the baby appeared to be in good health, Rust said.
Based on the baby’s living conditions, he was taken away by the Department of Children and Family Services. The child’s mother was not arrested, but his father, Jimmie Cox, was booked on child endangerment charges with bail set at $100,000.
“Because the child was out all night long in nothing but a pair of pajamas,” Rust said.
Detectives are still investigating the incident.