Jeremiah T. Bueker, the 48-year-old Arkansas County Northern District judge, had planned to spend the weekend in that area with family members and friends, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. When he left the group on Saturday to explore on his own and did not return, Bueker’s family and friends told police that they tried searching for him themselves without success. Since the sun had already set, they reported Bueker missing.
The sheriff’s office said a team of deputies was dispatched just before midnight and responded to the call “immediately.” Coordinating with wildlife officers at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the county’s marine patrol unit carried out what the sheriff’s office described as an “extensive ground and water search” for Bueker, whose loved ones said he was last seen near Mud Lake. The lake is located on the outskirts of the Arkansas River and at one junction drains into the river itself.
Police say that authorities surveyed the lake on boats using side-scan sonar technology, “which provides a birds-eye view of the water.” They continued to look for Bueker until “low visibility” temporarily suspended their search during the early morning hours on Sunday, and resumed searching after sunrise.
The sonar system detected Bueker’s body at the bottom of Mud Lake around 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, according to the sheriff’s office. Once the body had been recovered, deputies and investigators confirmed Bueker’s identity with help from his friends and family. His death is currently being investigated as an accidental drowning, although the sheriff’s office noted that his body will still be sent to the State Medical Examiner for an autopsy.
“I truly pray that the successful recovery of Judge Bueker’s body by our deputies and Arkansas Game and Fish Wildlife Officers brings some sense of closure to the Bueker Family and those who knew him best,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods in a statement shared with the office’s press release announcing Bueker’s death. “The scour of emotions they must feel right now is devastating.”