Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: December 7, 1989
Ken Leppert and Ken Murdock of Klamath Falls, Oregon, friends since high school and fellow mechanics for a logging company, were on the job the morning of December 7, 1989. The temperature was below freezing and mist hung in the air as the two Kens drove down a remote logging road toward town. They reached an open gate, and Leppert jumped out of his truck to close it. As he locked it, he noticed a curious bundle lying on the forest floor. Leppert went over to investigate and saw a folded blanket. He started to unwrap it and saw blood. He ran back to the truck. "Come and tell me this isn't what I think it is," he said to Murdock.
The men approached the blanket and Murdock started to unwrap it. The first thing he saw was a placenta and umbilical cord. Murdock continued to unwrap the blanket, and neither man was prepared for what was inside. They had found a newborn baby boy. The men hurried back to the truck with the infant, who they thought was dead. They radioed their office to call the sheriff or state police. While on the radio, the two Kens heard a whine, They checked the baby and he moved one eyelid. He was alive--barely. The men requested an ambulance.
The blanket was soaking wet and the men were scared that the baby, who was rigid and blue in color, was on the verge of freezing to death. Leppert peeled off his sweatshirt and wrapped it around the baby for warmth. Then they carried him into the truck and blasted the heater. Deciding they couldn't afford to wait for the ambulance, they drove down the road to meet it. As they rode, the two Kens talked to the baby and told each other, and him, he was going to be okay, but in the back of the minds, they both felt he was too far gone.
Sheriff's Deputy Tom Johnson was heading to the scene when he encountered their truck. "It really hit home hard," recalls Deputy Johnson, "because here's a brand new baby and it appears the woman had the baby possibly right there and then just wrapped him up and just discarded him like so much baggage."
Moments later, the ambulance arrived. The two Kens had named the baby Benjamin, and Murdock gathered him in his arms and went around to the back of the ambulance. "They had to chase him out of the ambulance," says Leppert. "He was going to go with him." "You form a bond real quickly with a baby like that," says Murdock. "You sit there and hold him so tight. I didn't want to put him down. It was a funny feeling, you know, like you feel he's yours. It's something you want to take home with you and hold tight."
When baby Benjamin arrived at the hospital, his heart had stopped and his core body temperature was so low it didn't register on the thermometer. Pediatrician Dr. Charles LaBuwi arrived from his office, but he had told his staff he would be returning shortly because he didn't think Benjamin would survive. "I thought the dear Lord would determine whether this baby was going to survive or not," says Dr. LaBuwi, "and I'd just do my part.
Amazingly, baby Benjamin regained a heartbeat and his condition started to improve. Two hours after his arrival at the hospital, his body temperature had elevated to ninety-four degrees, he was crying, and was well enough to be transferred to the nursery.
Ken Leppert called the hospital to see how Benjamin was doing. Recalls Leppert, "They said, 'Well, you can come and see this baby twenty-four hours a day if you want to. We consider you guys family.' We got attached to him. We both just fell in love with him."
While Benjamin was recovering, hundreds of calls poured in from couples wanting to adopt him. After two weeks in the hospital, Benjamin was adopted. Because the two Kens had found him so close to Christmas time, they were asked by reporters if there was any religious significance. "Ken and I looked at each other," says Leppert, "and Ken said, 'No, but it does make you believe in Santa Claus.' "