The father of a missing 2-year-old girl whose body was found in a debris field in the East Fork White River on Sunday has been charged with Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death, unlawful possession of a syringe and also as a habitual offender.
Jeremy Sweet, 39, of 1415 N. County Road 850E., has been held in the Bartholomew County Jail without bond since Monday.
He was initially hospitalized suffering from hypothermia and frostbite when found in his submerged pickup truck in the river at 6 a.m. Friday by duck hunters.
Sweet and his daughter Emma were last seen together in his black 2017 Ford F-150 pickup at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 24, and were reported missing by family members on Nov. 25, which was Thanksgiving Day, investigators said.
An autopsy was conducted for Emma after she was found at 11 a.m. Sunday in the river by a firefighter walking the riverbank about 2½ miles downstream from where the submerged truck was found.
Detectives attended the autopsy at Columbus Regional Hospital on Monday and preliminary findings were undetermined as to whether hypothermia or drowning is the cause of death, the probable cause affidavit states. There was no trauma found to her body and toxicology results are pending, the affidavit states.
The charges, filed in Bartholomew Superior Court 1, accuse Sweet of knowingly or intentionally placing his daughter in a situation that endangered her life and health and resulted in her death. He also is accused of Level 6 felony possession of a hypodermic syringe, which investigators said was found on his person when he was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital on Friday.
The habitual offender allegation alleges that on Nov. 1, 2007, Sweet was convicted of felony operating an illegal drug lab and on March 22, 2016 he was convicted of felony dealing in methamphetamine. If convicted of the neglect or syringe charge, Sweet would be convicted of three felonies, resulting in his sentence possibly being enhanced by six to 20 years, according to Indiana statute.
A Level 1 felony conviction in Indiana carries a prison term of 20 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, according to state statutes.
Sweet was being held Wednesday in the Bartholomew County Jail in lieu of $1.2 million bond (or 10% cash).
A probable cause affidavit filed with the charges states that the father and daughter were reported missing by Sweet’s wife and Emma’s mother Linsey Sweet on Thanksgiving day.
Bartholomew County Sheriff deputies were sent to a water rescue in the 1700 block of Blessing Road, off Beatty Lane at 6 a.m. Friday, where Sweet is believed to have driven his truck off a 15- to 20-foot embankment into the river. Four duck hunters told investigators they found the truck submerged in about 3- to 5-feet of water and called 911, while helping get the shirt-less Sweet out of the truck to shore. He did not say anything to the hunters when he was rescued, according to the probable cause affidavit.
At the scene, Sweet initially told investigators, who knew when questioning him that Emma was missing, that he dropped her off at “Casey’s,” but then eventually said that he had unbuckled Emma from her car seat after they were in the river, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Sweet then told investigators he placed her on the hood or roof of the vehicle before “losing her” at some point, the affidavit states. CRH paramedics located a syringe and an empty corner cut baggie (drug paraphernalia) on Sweet’s person, the affidavit states.
Investigators then interviewed Sweet at Columbus Regional Hospital, where Sweet told them that he “got lost” on a dirt road and the truck got stuck. Sweet told detectives that as he was trying to move the truck, it went over the embankment and into the river, the affidavit states.
“Jeremy said that water was coming inside the truck, so he put Emma on the hood or roof of the truck. Jeremy said that he and Emma fell into the water and he climbed back up on top of the truck. He said that Emma’s coat was wet, so he took it off of her. He claimed that they were both on top of the truck overnight and the last time he saw Emma, she was on top of the truck yelling for her Mom. Jeremy said that he held her for awhile, but he later put her on top of the roof of the truck by herself because they fell into the water earlier when they were both on the roof. Jeremy said he woke up at some point and Emma was gone,” the affidavit states.
Detectives spoke with a Jodi Miller who they believe is the last person known to have been with Jeremy and Emma Sweet before they were reported missing, the affidavit states. Miller said she was at the Shelbyville casino with Jeremy Sweet and Greg Lawson in the early morning hours of Nov. 24 and arrived at Jeremy’s house later in the morning, according to the affidavit.
They picked up Emma because Linsey Sweet had to go to work and they all went to Miller’s house. Sweet gave Miller a ride to work at Vernet Corp. because her car was broken down, the affidavit states. Miller told investigators that Sweet dropped her off at around 3:30 p.m. Nov. 24 and that Emma was fine when the father and daughter left, which was the last time she saw them.
In a followup interview on Nov. 27, Sweet told detectives that he had used methamphetamine and marijuana before going to the Shelbyville casino, the affidavit states.
Sweet said after he dropped Miller off, he took a wrong turn and ended up driving around in some fields, eventually driving on top of an embankment where he could see the river, the affidavit states.
He said the truck got stuck, so he began rocking the vehicle using the forward and reverse gears, but went too far forward and ended up in the water, which happened about 45 minutes after dropping Miller off on Nov. 24, the affidavit states.
It was still light outside when the two ended up in the water, Sweet told detectives. In this version, Sweet said he and Emma got on top of the roof of the vehicle and fell into the water a couple of times, the affidavit states. Sweet said he removed Emma’s coat because it was soaking wet, but then fell asleep sometime during the evening of Nov. 24, and when he woke up, Emma and her coat were gone, according to the affidavit.
He later told detectives that Emma fell into the water with him on the morning of Nov. 25, and he fell asleep and woke up the night of Nov. 25 and Emma and her coat were gone, according to the affidavit.
Sheriff Matt Myers asked that the community keep Emma Sweet’s family in their thoughts and prayers and again thanked the multiple law enforcement and first responder agencies who assisted at the scene and in the investigation.
“Again, I want to reiterate that in my 30 years in law enforcement, I have never seen such cooperation in an investigation,” Myers said. “I would like to thank our detectives who have spent countless hours on this investigation.”