Now, Sweet, 39, has been charged with a felony in connection with Emma’s death. Prosecutors also charged him with possession of a syringe. Sweet was being treated at the hospital for hypothermia and frostbite and was in critical condition, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office said at a news conference last weekend. He is being held on a $1.2 million bond. A lawyer for Sweet declined to comment.
Fighting tears at a news conference the day Emma was found, the girl’s uncle thanked the crews who found the toddler. “We got her home,” he said.
Bartholomew County sits about 40 minutes south of Indianapolis. It spans about 409 square miles and surrounds White River’s east fork and its tributaries. The hunters discovered Sweet in his truck in a portion of the river that winds through farms and woodland — a place that is not easily accessible to cars, officials said at the news conference.
When a law enforcement officer arrived at the scene, Sweet initially said he had dropped his daughter off at someone’s house. But then his story changed, police said.
In the early hours of Nov. 24, Sweet took some methamphetamine and marijuana and went to a casino with a person named Jodi Miller, he told detectives, according to an affidavit submitted for Sweet’s arrest. Because Emma’s mother had to work that day, Sweet and Miller went back to his house to pick up the girl later in the morning, and they all subsequently went to Miller’s house, according to the affidavit.
Around 3:30 p.m., Sweet took Miller to work and brought Emma along. But after he dropped Miller off, he took a wrong turn and “ended up driving around in some fields” and then eventually to the top of an embankment where he could see the river, according to the affidavit.
There, his truck became stuck. So he tried to dislodge it by “rocking the vehicle using the forward and reverse gears,” according to the affidavit. But Sweet “went too far forward,” and the truck went into the water.
It was still light out, but water started to fill the truck, Sweet told detectives, according to the affidavit. So he and Emma climbed onto the vehicle’s roof. They fell into the water a couple times, he said, and he took off the girl’s coat because it was soaking wet.
It’s unclear exactly how and when Sweet and his daughter were separated. First, Sweet told detectives that he fell asleep the night of Nov. 24, and when he awoke, Emma was gone, according to the affidavit. Sweet later told another detective that he and Emma fell into the water the next morning, Nov. 25. After Sweet fell asleep and awoke that evening, he said, Emma was gone.
On Nov. 27, a search crew found Emma’s jacket about two miles down the river from where the truck was submerged, officials said. The next day, about two and a half miles from the truck, a diver found the girl’s body.
According to the affidavit, an initial autopsy could not immediately determine whether Emma died of hypothermia or drowning.