Arkansas judge found dead in lake after he went missing on a family trip

An Arkansas judge was found dead at the bottom of a lake Sunday after he went missing during a trip with family and friends over the weekend, authorities said.

Arkansas County Northern District Judge Jeremiah Bueker, 48, was in Jefferson County for “recreational travel” with his loved ones, but at some point during the trip he “ventured off alone” and was not seen alive again, according to a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office news release. His death is being investigated as an accidental drowning, the office said.

Bueker was last seen near Mud Lake, where his body was later found, the sheriff’s office reported.

“After time had passed and no one had seen or heard from Bueker, worry began to set in,” the release said. “A search for Bueker by family and friends began.”

After the sun set, the family had still not found Bueker, so they called 911, the release said. An extensive ground and water search was conducted late into the night and early morning by the sheriff’s office and wildlife officers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Eventually, the search had to be paused due to low visibility, the sheriff’s office said.

On Sunday morning, the search resumed as authorities scoured the lake using boats with side-scan sonar, which allowed them to get “a birds-eye view of the water,” Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. said in the release.

“At approximately 9:16 a.m., the side-scan sonar revealed a body on the bottom of the lake,” and deputies pulled the body from the water, the sheriff’s office said.

The family helped authorities identify the recovered body as Bueker’s and an autopsy will be performed by the State Medical Examiner, the sheriff’s office said.

“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.

CNN has reached out to the Stuttgart District Court, where Bueker served as district judge.

April Davis, the deputy coroner for Jefferson County who responded to the scene, said there were no signs of foul play. She noted the body was intact with no signs of trauma.

According to Davis, a State Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy is standard procedure. The body was transported to the office on Sunday and the autopsy is expected to be performed this week, with a report expected in about three to six months, she said.

Mud Lake is in Jefferson County and lies about 75 miles southeast of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Correction: An earlier version of this story, along with a map, gave the wrong location for Mud Lake. It is in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

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