Jeremy Sweet, who faces felony charges involving the death of his 2-year-old daughter Emma, made his initial court appearance Thursday in Bartholomew Superior Court 1 by video conference from jail.
Sweet, 39, of 1415 N. County Road 850E, has told multiple versions about what happened regarding the death of his daughter, Emma Sweet, whose body was found in a debris field in the East Fork White River at 11 a.m. Sunday.
During Thursday’s hearing, Judge James Worton explained to Sweet by video conference that he is charged with a Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death, accused of intentionally placing his daughter in a situation that endangered her life and health and resulted in her death.
During the initial hearing, Worton appointed public defender Aaron Edwards to represent Sweet in court.
The judge also scheduled a change of plea hearing for 4 p.m. April 4, a pre-trial conference for 11 a.m. April 25 and a tentative trial date of May 10, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Worton did not change the bond for Sweet, who remains in the Bartholomew County Jail in lieu of $1.2 million bond (or 10% cash).
Sweet also is facing a Level 6 felony of possession of a hypodermic syringe, which investigators said was found on his person by paramedics when he was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital on Friday. CRH paramedics located a syringe and an empty corner cut baggie (drug paraphernalia) on Sweet’s person, the probable cause affidavit states.
The third charge is a habitual offender extension that stems from a 2007 conviction of operating an illegal drug lab, as well as a March 2016 conviction of dealing in methamphetamine, according to court records.
If convicted of all three charges, Sweet could be sentenced to more than 62 years in prison, with the habitual offender enhancement.
The father and daughter were last seen at about 3:30 p.m. Nov. 24 in Sweet’s black Ford F-150. They were reported missing Nov. 25 by , which was Thanksgiving Day. At 6 a.m. Nov. 26, Jeremy Sweet was found shirtless with the windows open in his pickup truck by duck hunters, who had spotted his submerged pickup truck in 3- to 5-feet of water in the river.
An extensive river and ground search ensued for Emma, who was found by a firefighter walking the riverbank about 2 1/2 miles downstream from where the truck was found by the duck hunters.
Sweet has given detectives multiple versions about what happened to Emma and how the truck got into the river, over a 15- to 20-foot embankment.
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.
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 by Sweet’s wife and Emma’s mother Linsey Sweet, 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.
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.
A memorial service for Emma is set for noon Saturday at Barkes, Weaver &Glick Funeral Home and may be viewed online at barkesweaverglick.com.