COLUMBUS, Ind. – Authorities confirmed Sunday afternoon search crews found the body of missing 2-year-old Emma Sweet.
“We had the resources we needed to locate this girl. Although my heart goes out to the family and friends, there’s a bit of comfort knowing that we have her now,” said Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers.
Officials said Emma and her father, Jeremy Sweet, 39, went missing earlier this week. On Friday morning, duck hunters found Sweet’s truck submerged in the east fork of the White River in Bartholomew County. He was found inside in the truck, but Emma was nowhere to be found.
“Prior to us being called to that scene, the mother had filed a missing persons report on both Emma and Jeremy on Thanksgiving Day,” Myers confirmed.
Sweet was transported to the hospital to be treated for exposure to hypothermia and an intensive search for Emma was launched by multiple agencies.
According to Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers, Sweet provided investigators with two different stories early on, including one that indicated Emma was with him when his truck went into the river. On Saturday, investigators said he provided an additional story, which also indicated both of them were in the water.
“When we first made contact with him yesterday morning it was that he had dropped Emma off at Casey’s. Right after that he says she was on the hood of the car of his vehicle her coat was wet, so he took the coat off and that’s where she got swept away,” Sheriff Matt Myers said Saturday afternoon. “There is really three stories now and none of them match.”
Throughout the weekend, search crews from the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana State Police and several area fire departments searched the river and combed nearby fields for any signs of Emma. About 25 volunteer firefighters assisted in the ground search as crews worked to determine whether Emma was in the water.
On Saturday, crews found her jacket downstream from where Sweet’s truck was found in the water. But, search crews had to call off the search for the second night in a row because it got too dark to search.
It was on Sunday morning Emma’s body was located by a diver about two and a half miles downstream from where the vehicle was located, Captain Jet Quillen with the Indiana DNR said.
“It’s a bittersweet day and what I mean by that is, I’m very proud of the men and women that went out and did what they did on a holiday weekend, but my heart goes out to the family,” Myers said.
Indiana State Police Sergeant Stephen Wheeles said they had divers in the water all three days during the search for Emma.
“It’s very emotional for those guys. They all have families. It’s hard for us to distance ourselves from that situation when you’re dealing with the loss of a child. It’s hard for those guys not to picture that being their child,” said Wheeles.
Myers said Emma’s body was recovered from the White River and has been turned over to the Bartholomew County Coroner’s Office. He offered his condolences to the family, who he said has been cooperative during the investigation, and thanked the search crews who took part in finding the toddler.
“This not about Jeremy Sweet today. This is about Emma and us locating this beautiful child and being able to give her back to her family,” said Myers.
“On behalf of my family, I just really appreciate what all of these agencies have done, all of the resources they’ve put into finding Emma and bringing her home,” said Emma’s uncle, Bryan O’Neal.
O’Neal thanked the community for their support and efforts that helped find Emma, as well as the search crews that took part in the three-day search.
“It was pretty incredible how much effort they put into finding this little girl. We got her home,” said O’Neal.
Her father, Jeremy Sweet, has been placed on a 72-hour hold with no bond as authorities continue to investigate the circumstances of what happened. He is in critical condition.
Bartholomew Co. Sheriff Matt Myers says Sweet had a needle and drug paraphernalia on him when he was found in the submerged truck.
Sweet’s pickup truck was pulled from the river and brought to a secure location, according to Myers, who said authorities were working to get a search warrant to look through the truck more thoroughly.
Authorities are still unsure how the two ended up in the water and how long they may have been in there.
At the time Jeremy’s truck was found submerged in the river, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office confirmed he was out on bond in Bartholomew County for unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, as well as possession of methamphetamine.