‘A miracle’: Infant survives floating in Missouri pond after dad says he drowned her

Missouri pond is scene of rescue after man allegedly tries to drown infant

Police on Monday rushed to a pond in Greenwood, Mo., after a man reported he had tried to drown his infant child. The officers saved the child.
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Police on Monday rushed to a pond in Greenwood, Mo., after a man reported he had tried to drown his infant child. The officers saved the child.

The father’s confession was airless and flat.

He just killed his 6-month-old baby daughter, he told stunned police officers Monday morning in the Greenwood, Mo., police station.

He was sure he had drowned her, according to Greenwood police Lt. Aaron Fordham. The father left his daughter in an icy retention pond on the west side of Greenwood, a suburb of about 5,000 people 20 miles southeast of Kansas City.

“There was no emotion whatsoever,” Fordham said.

That’s when the Greenwood police chief and another officer sprang into action, rushing out to see if the child could be saved. As it turned out, they played key roles in what Fordham would call “a miracle.”

While Fordham stayed with the man, Police Chief Greg Hallgrimson and Cpl. Tom Calhoun ran to the pond. They didn’t stop to reflect on the bizarre situation. “You’re in a reactionary state,” Fordham said.

Hallgrimson and Calhoun arrived to a grim scene: The unconscious body of an infant floating face up — her lungs filled with water — out in the murky pond.

Calhoun waded hard into the thigh-deep water in his black police uniform, Kevlar vest and boots, to retrieve the child.

He said the child appeared lethargic, her eyes wide and black, her skin a lifeless color. She had mud in her eyes and grass and water in her mouth. They would estimate she’d been in the water more than 10 minutes.

Calhoun rushed her cold body to the bank, cleared the water from her lungs and began CPR.

In moments, Fordham said, the infant breathed again.

“There was absolutely someone watching over that child today,” he said.

Calhoun and Hallgrimson removed the infant’s wet clothes and wrapped her in the chief’s shirt to warm her body. Paramedics soon arrived to take over reviving the child and deliver her to a hospital.

Late Monday afternoon, prosecutors charged 28-year-old Jonathon Stephen Zicarelli with first-degree domestic assault.

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Jackson County Detention Center

According to charging documents, Zicarelli told investigators he had been planning to kill his daughter for more than 24 hours after having “bad thoughts.” He said he wanted to make things easier for his wife. He said he was stressed by the holidays and trying to provide for his family.

He said he walked down to the water three separate times before determining he was capable of sinking the child under the surface. After he did it, he went to the Greenwood Police Department to confess.

In the early afternoon, word came back from the hospital that the infant was stable and her condition was improving. She was in good health, hospital officials told the police.

“The news came down through the chain and there was a huge sigh of relief,” Fordham said.

The child is being treated for severe hypothermia. Her temperature when she arrived at the hospital was 87.9 degrees, well below the normal temperature of 98.6 degrees.

It seems unbelievable, said Jimmy Mahnken, 79, who lives beside the retention pond on Doc Henry Road, that such a thing would happen — and that the child would survive.

“It was right there,” he said, standing in his driveway, pointing out across the small pond. “It’s just a crazy world.”

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing.
Joe Robertson specializes in reporting on criminal and social justice. He works to tell the stories behind the stories, while covering breaking news of all kinds.