Investigators spent five days searching dense vines and marshes for a missing infant, only to find her lying quietly in a 2-foot by 3-foot cedar box that had been shoved under her baby sitter's bed.
Clothing was packed around it to muffle any sounds and baking powder placed inside to mask the stench of dirty diapers.
Authorities say the baby's mother, Chrystina Lynn Mercer, gave her to baby sitter Susan Elizabeth Baker early Saturday, then reported her missing about 10 hours later.
Washington County Sheriff Bobby Haddock choked up Thursday as he described how 7-month-old Shannon Dedrick was stashed in the box for 12 straight hours before investigators discovered her late Wednesday. They believe she had been in the box on and off for several days before that.
"She was way back under the bed," he said. "But she was not crying."
Baker had written a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist's office in August, pleading for help for the baby and claiming her father shook her and both parents did drugs in front of her. She asked Mercer on Friday if she could have permanent custody, Haddock said. Officials do not believe Shannon's father, who is Baker's stepbrother, was involved in the disappearance.
Haddock said Shannon apparently had been fed and cared for while she was with Baker, who lived about 12 miles from Mercer, though there was no bottle in the box with her. He said Baker became a suspect several days ago but never told them where the baby was, even as they interviewed her for 12 hours while Shannon remained hidden.
Mercer and Baker were jailed and arraignments were scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Mercer was charged with interference of child custody, desertion of a child and several other charges. Charges against Baker included neglect of a child with aggravated circumstances and interference of child custody.
Mercer's mother, Candis Boyer, attended Thursday's news conference and said afterward that she was there to show support for her daughter and granddaughter.
"I love my daughter very deeply," she said.
Baker's husband, James Arthur Baker, was arrested but released. He is still under investigation, Haddock said.
Shannon's parents told investigators they last saw her when they went to bed around 3 a.m. Saturday and investigators thought she had vanished sometime between then and 8 a.m.
About 100 law enforcement agents and others spent days scouring dense vines and marshes around the baby's home in a remote, makeshift community of dirt roads, tin-roof shacks and old mobile homes. Searchers also dug through trash cans and dumpsters.
"Statistically speaking this should not have ever happened, that we found this child alive, especially after so many days," said Haddock, who cradled Shannon in his arms as he spoke to reporters earlier Thursday. "Time was against us."
Read More HERE