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Body of Arkansas County district judge recovered from Jefferson County lake

by Alexandria Brown | August 7, 2022 at 7:46 p.m.
Police tape

A district judge from Stuttgart was found dead Sunday in a lake about 30 miles east of Pine Bluff, and Jefferson County deputies are investigating the case as an accidental drowning, according to a sheriff’s office news release on Sunday.

The body of Arkansas County Northern District Judge Jeremiah T. Bueker, 48, of Stuttgart, was recovered from Mud Lake in east Jefferson County on Sunday morning, authorities said.

Bueker was the lead attorney at Bueker Law Firm, his own law firm in Stuttgart. According to a biography on his practice’s website, Bueker had more than 20 years of experience in the field.

Stuttgart Mayor Norma Strabala said in a Facebook post that she and the community are “shocked” and “heartbroken” about Bueker's death.

“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 in the post.

Bueker graduated from Stuttgart High School, “Home of the Ricebirds,” in 1992. Eric Mahfouz, a Stuttgart official who spoke for the mayor, noted that Bueker was elected Arkansas County district judge in 2012, defeating incumbent J.W. Green Jr.

“He was an avid outdoorsman, a lifelong Ricebird and booster, and a very proud father,” Mahfouz said.

Maj. Gary McClain of the Jefferson County sheriff's office said Bueker was last seen alive Saturday evening.

“His family had a weekend at a cabin on the family's property,” McClain said. “They were riding side-by-sides [utility task vehicles] and returned back to the cabin. It appears he decided to go swimming after maybe being dusty, and he went missing. No one was with him; he was alone.”

According to McClain, the family said Bueker was an avid swimmer, so it wouldn’t be unexpected for him to jump in the lake for a quick swim. He said the family searched for a couple of hours on their own before authorities were dispatched.

The release says Bueker was last seen near Mud Lake, which channels into the Arkansas River just north of Acorn Drive in Reydell in east Jefferson County.

Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched by the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Association late Saturday night, the release says. The Jefferson County sheriff’s office Marine Patrol joined wildlife officers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to begin an extensive ground and water research.

The team searched until 2:30 a.m. Sunday, when they had to stop due to low visibility, McClain said. The search started again around 8 a.m. Sunday.

Deputies and wildlife officers used boats that were equipped with side-scan sonar, the release says. The sonar offers a “bird’s eye view of the water,” Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. said in the release.

Shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, the sonar found Bueker’s body on the bottom of the lake. The body was recovered and positively identified, the release said. The Jefferson County coroner’s office was notified, and Bueker was pronounced dead at the scene. 

McClain said Bueker was found not too far from the dock on the family's property.

“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,” Woods said in the release. “The scour of emotions they must feel right now is devastating.”

Bueker's body will be sent to the state Crime Laboratory for an autopsy.

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