The body of an Arkansas district court judge was recovered from a lake over the weekend after venturing off alone during a recreational gathering with friends and family, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said Sunday.
Arkansas County Northern District Judge Jeremiah T. Bueker, 48, was last seen near Mud Lake, in Jefferson County, Arkansas, according to a statement from the sheriff's office.
When friends and family were unable to locate Bueker, "worry began to set in," according to the statement, and they called 911. Several agencies responded to the scene around midnight and began an extensive ground and water search with boats.
"The boats used were equipped with side-scan sonar, which provides a birds-eye view of the water," Sheriff Lafayette Woods, Jr. said in the statement.
The searches continued until early morning, and were briefly suspended due to low visibility, but picked up again after sunrise.
At approximately 9:16 a.m., side-scan sonar revealed a body at the bottom of the lake. The sheriff's office said "deputies utilized subsurface body recovery drag/rescue hooks" to recover the body. After the body was pulled from the lake, family members identified the body as Bueker, according to the sheriff's office.
“I truly pray that the successful recovery of Judge Bueker’s body by our deputies and Arkansas Game & Fish Wildlife Officers brings some sense of closure to the Bueker Family and those who knew him best,” Woods said. “The scour of emotions they must feel right now is devastating.”
The Jackson County Coroner's Office was called to the scene and pronounced Bueker dead. The sheriff's office said Bueker's death is being investigated as an accidental drowning, and his body will be sent to the state medical examiner for an autopsy.
The Arkansas County Northern District court told TODAY that they did not have comment on Bueker's death.
Mayor Norma Strabala of Stuttgart, Arkansas, where Bueker served, said in a statement to TODAY she is “shocked and heartbroken” with the loss of Bueker.
"Jeremy was an important and special person in this community, serving as a good friend, fierce attorney and as Arkansas County Northern District Court Judge for nearly a decade," Strabala said. "I am praying for Sunny, his family and this community as we mourn this tragic loss."