When Mike Horihan, the chief of police in West Branch, Iowa, set out to search for a kidnapped newborn baby last Friday, he prepared himself for the worst, considering that the temperature had dipped to record-breaking 11 below zero in the region that week.
Horihan, who heads the town’s three-person police department, got dressed in his winter gear and began searching for six-day-old Kayden Powell, who was allegedly snatched by his aunt Thursday from his home in Beloit, Wisconsin, as his mother slept.
Police pulled over Kristen Smith, the baby’s aunt, in West Branch just hours after the baby’s disappearance, but the woman did not have the newborn with her.
‘Realistically, we thought the baby could have been anywhere between Wisconsin and here,’ Horihan told The Washington Post.
The small-town police chief’s job was to scour a stretch of road on the north side on Interstate 80.
As luck would have it, the former Iowa State Patrol officer’s first stop was a BP gas station. After questioning the owner, he went around the back and spotted a stack of recycling bins.
Nearby, he noticed a plastic tote with the lid covered in frost. Horihan opened the container, only to discover a black blanket inside.
The unexpected find set off alarm bells in the police chief’s head. Given the frigid temperatures the night before, Horihan was certain that he located the missing baby too late.
‘I was opening that container like I was trying to preserve evidence,’ he said.
All of a sudden, Horihan heard what he described as a clearly audible whimper coming from what he realized was a bundle of blankets stuffed inside the plastic tote.
When the police chief finally peeked inside the container, he found little Kayden alive.
‘I got a baby crying here! Baby crying here!’ Horihan yelled to his partner. ‘I found the baby!’
The six-day-old newborn was dressed in white pajamas and a stocking hat, and carefully wrapped in multiple swaddling blankets and sheets against the frigid air.
When paramedics arrived on the scene, they carried the child into a fire truck and inspected him. The baby appeared healthy and alert, and showed no signs of frostbite or hypothermia.
Finding the baby alive after 24 hours in freezing temperatures left Horihan in a state of disbelief.
‘You could have knocked me over with a feather,’ Horihan told the station KCRG.