The 4-month-old girl appeared calm and gentle, intently sucking on a pacifier.
But she clearly was not where she should have been.
A group of church members immediately took care of the infant. One of them had spotted the girl on the side of a rural Berkeley County road not far south of the Orangeburg County line.
The baby had been snatched at gunpoint from her home on Catamount Road near Holly Hill and driven about 7 miles away and left by the side of the road. She was found roughly an hour later.
George Mack, 65, placed a call to 911 around 5 p.m. Tuesday alerting authorities of the baby’s location.
Mack had just walked out of a funeral at nearby Ebenezer Zion AME church and was talking with some of the church’s members when his cellphone began to ring. What he heard on the other end of the line was enough to bring tears to his eyes, he said.
A baby had been left lying on a damp patch of grass along S.C. Highway 311 near U.S. 176. The child’s parents were nowhere in sight.
Mack headed a mile from the church to where the baby was found. Other church members quickly followed.
The little girl was found wrapped in a light-brown blanket that was stained with a woman’s lipstick. She didn’t cry when handled by the church members, Mack said. Her attention was fixated on the pacifier between her lips.
According to Mack, the man who initially found the infant thought she was a teddy bear. He realized he was wrong when her tiny feet kicked within the blanket.
The group debated about whether to call 911, Mack said.
Some believed that the child was one of three infants they saw earlier during the funeral service. Surely the girl’s parents would return as soon as they noticed that she was missing, they speculated.
Mack wasn’t willing to take that chance. He called 911 and reported the bizarre find.
“There was a baby lying down on the side of the road, and we don’t know who it belongs to,” Mack told a dispatcher. He agreed to wait with the child until authorities arrived.
“Why would they do a little baby like that,” Mack said later. “It brings a hurting to my heart.”
Seven men with guns burst into the Catamount Road home at 3:55 p.m. Tuesday and forced three adults and six children to the floor, according to an incident report the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office released Wednesday.
Two men struck a 52-year-old woman in the head with a gun while she was protecting her grandson, according to the report. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The men drove off with the 4-month-old in a car, leaving the distraught father standing in the yard.
Emergency workers checked out the infant after she was found and determined that she was fine. The Sheriff’s Office then contacted the baby’s parents, who came to pick her up.
The temperature was around 60 degrees, so the baby was not overly cold, but leaving a child alongside a road could add child endangerment to the long list of possible charges if anybody is arrested.
Orangeburg County Sheriff Lery Ravenell said evidence shows that the incident was “not a random act of violence.”
“We will locate the cowards who entered the residence and snatched an innocent child from their family and later discarded the helpless child on the side of a road,” he said. “We are continuing to interview witnesses, collect evidence, and will be working with all available resources to bring these individuals back to Orangeburg County to stand for the charges they have committed against this family.”
Two vehicles that matched the description of the ones involved in the abduction were spotted in Berkeley County, said Dan Moon, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. Deputies were looking for them Tuesday night around Black Tom Road and Sheep Island Road.
Officials were still looking Wednesday for a red Chevrolet Impala and a green Ford Explorer that witnesses say left the house with the baby.
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