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Coroner rules 2-year-old Emma Sweet's death a homicide

The little girl drowned in the White River in Bartholomew County this past November.

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. — Emma Sweet, 2, drowned in the White River in Bartholomew County this past November. The Bartholomew County Coroner's Office has ruled the death a homicide and said the little girl died from "complications of hypothermia and asphyxia due to drowning."

Her body was recovered Nov. 28 more than 2 miles from where her father, Jeremy Sweet, was found by duck hunters as his truck sat in the river waters.

Jeremy, 39, is currently charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death and unlawful possession of a syringe. He is being held on $1.2 million bond.

He was already awaiting trial on two other cases for possession of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. He was out on bond when his truck was found submerged in the White River Nov. 26.

Credit: Bartholomew County Sheriff's Department
Jeremy Wayne Sweet, 39, of Columbus.

RELATED: Columbus dad charged in death of 2-year-old Emma Sweet

Jeremy's wife reported him and their daughter, Emma, missing on Thursday, Nov. 25 after they hadn't been seen since the previous afternoon.

On Friday, Nov. 26, a group of hunters saw Jeremy in the back of his truck that was submerged in the river. They helped him to shore. At the time, he did not mention anything about anyone else in the truck.

Credit: Bartholomew County Sheriff's Office
Emma Sweet

When police asked Jeremy where Emma was, they say he gave conflicting stories — initially saying he had dropped her off at Casey's, then later saying he had unbuckled her from her car seat after his truck went into the river. Paramedics on the scene found a syringe and an empty baggie with the corner cut on Jeremy, according to the probable cause affidavit.

RELATED: Missing 2-year-old's body recovered from Indiana river; father on 72-hour hold during investigation

Jeremy was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital for treatment. There, he allegedly told a detective he got lost after making a wrong turn, and when he drove up onto an embankment, his truck got stuck. When he was trying to free it, he said it went too far forward and into the water.

Credit: Bartholomew County Sheriff
Members of the Bartholomew County Sheriff's Office talk to each other in front of a submerged truck owned by Jeremy Sweet. His daughter, Emma, was reported missing Nov. 24.

Court documents say Jeremy told a detective he put Emma on the roof or hood of the truck, then held her for a while before later waking up and she was gone.

“Again, I just want to thank everyone who helped search for Emma,” said Sheriff Matt Myers. “I would especially like to thank the Volunteer Fire Departments, Prosecutor Greg Long and the Bartholomew County Coroner’s Office. It takes a village in incidents like this, and I am extremely impressed with the professionalism across all agencies.”

Police said Jeremy admitted to using meth and marijuana before going to the casino in Shelbyville Nov. 24.

The investigation claims after Emma was placed in a dangerous situation by Jeremy, he took no action to rescue her from it and that inaction resulted in her death. It is for those reasons the manner of death is being called a homicide.

Jeremy's trial date in the death of his daughter was tentatively set for May.