Judge denies bail reduction for Sweet

A local man accused of felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death in the drowning of his 2-year-old daughter did not have his bail reduced Tuesday.

Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Judge James Worton denied a bail reduction request from Jeremy Sweet, 39, of 1415 N. County Road 850E. The judge also notified Sweet that a habitual offender enhancement has been formally introduced that could add from six to 20 years to his sentence if convicted. While prosecutors filed for the enhancement on Dec. 6, Worton said it had not been introduced in court until Tuesday’s hearing.

Sweet is accused of intentionally placing his daughter, Emma, in a situation that endangered her life and health and resulted in her death. The defendant was arrested Thanksgiving Day weekend after the little girl’s body was recovered from the East Fork White River, downstream from where duck hunters found him in his submerged truck days earlier.

Sweet faces a Level 1 felony charge of neglect of a dependent resulting in death and a Level 6 felony charge of possession of a hypodermic syringe. Bond was set at $1.2 million or 10% cash for those cases.

There is also a second case against Sweet stemming from last May, when he was charged with a Level 5 felony of possession of methamphetamine and a Level 4 felony of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, according to court records. It is for those crimes that Sweet has been ordered held without bond.

A third open case that stems from last February charges Sweet with leaving the scene of an accident as a Class B misdemeanor. Worton is scheduled to hear all the cases in his court.

Appearing from the jail via teleconferencing and represented by public defender Aaron Edwards, Sweet told the judge he could pay between $15,000 to $20,000 in bail. He also agreed to electronic monitoring at his home, as well as to seek treatment for his addiction at an out-of-county facility. The defendant, who claims to be a trained electrician, expressed optimism about obtaining work to financially assist his family.

But the defense offer seemed to fall apart when Sweet said he wanted to serve his detention in the house where his wife and two surviving children, aged 10 and 11, reside. Under the circumstances of Emma’s death, neither Worton nor Bartholomew County Deputy Prosecutor Sara Laska could support the idea of leaving Sweet alone with two other children while his wife was working.

While the defendant appeared confident while answering questions from his own attorney, Sweet’s voice dropped in both tone and volume the moment that Laska brought up his extensive criminal history.

According to online court records, a total of 14 criminal cases have been filed against Sweet in Bartholomew County since 2001. Nearly half of those cases involved manufacturing or possession of methamphetamine.

Laska also said there was also a 2003 case in Jennings County involving narcotics where Sweet was later found to be in violation of his probation.

Prior to his daughter’s death, the most serious case against Sweet occurred in 2007 when he was charged with manufacturing and possession of methamphetamine. While three years of the seven-and-a-half year sentence was suspended, Sweet’s probation was eventually revoked for drug and alcohol use, online records state. He was incarcerated for another year before spending the remaining two years of his sentence in a Community Corrections program.

Laska gave several other reasons why prosecutors don’t want Sweet to be released from jail. For example, he has failed to appear at court hearings five separate times that include a bench trial, she said.

While Sweet has repeatedly broken terms of his probation, Laska highlighted an incident from 2017 where he fled from probation officers after taking a drug test. In addition, the defendant had two earlier opportunities for drug treatment that he either ignored or was unsuccessful in completing, she said.

Worton cited a high risk of Sweet becoming a repeat offender, his lengthy criminal record and the multiple current cases filed against him. But the judge also cited evidence indicating the defendant was “a danger to the community’ as reasons why the defendant should remain in jail.

According to court records, a change of plea hearing in the case is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 4 and a trial is set for 8:30 a.m. May 10.