The man who confessed to killing a 25-year-old Jackson County woman in 2020 will serve a life sentence in prison without chance of parole after pleading guilty to charges of capital murder and rape.
Quake Lewellyn, 29, of Jonesboro, gave his plea in Jackson County Circuit Court in front of the family of Sydney Sutherland. He had already told Arkansas State Police that he raped and killed her, according to court documents.
On Aug. 21, 2020, Sutherland’s body was found in a makeshift grave in a rice field in Jackson County, according to an arrest affidavit. She’d been reported missing two days earlier; her phone was found just over a mile from her home an hour after she vanished.
Lewellyn claimed he’d seen Sutherland running along a nearby roadway prior to her disappearance when questioned by authorities. During a consent search of his mobile phone, investigators traced his movements using a GPS app to a location about two miles away from where Sutherland’s phone was found. Her body was later found in a field footsteps away from the pinned geographical location.
More details of the gruesome murder from AWM:
The last time Sutherland was seen alive was on Wednesday. She had left her home for a run along Jackson County Road 41 between the cities of Newport and Grubbs. According to a report in People magazine, the Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas confirmed that a UPS driver had seen the missing woman during her run.
“We have a confirmed sighting around 2:30 to 3 pm in the afternoon,” Lucas said. “She was on foot, walking and jogging.”
Next, Sutherland’s cell phone was found about a quarter-mile from her home. Her vehicle and other personal belongings were still at her home. It seemed that she had not run away but had simply gone on a jog as she frequently did during the week when she had a few minutes for herself. According to her Facebook page, Sutherland worked as a registered nurse at Unity Health Harris Medical Center in Newport, Arkansas, which meant she spent her days saving lives.
Family and friends reported Sutherland missing quickly. Law enforcement agencies from across the state began searching for her and started with the area where she was last seen alive. They were also able to obtain data from her cellphone and her Apple Watch to track her movements the afternoon when she went missing.
During the two days when Sutherland was missing, hundreds of volunteers searched the area looking for her or her remains. Sheriff Lucas was not aware whether or not Lewellyn joined the volunteers; however, he was listed as being a member of one of the Facebook groups created to organize the search and rescue effort.
By Friday, Sheriff Lucas held a news conference to report that Sutherland’s body was found at 2 pm that afternoon. Her corpse was buried on farmland in rural Jackson County. The sheriff did not tell the media what led the authorities to the location of her body. He also confirmed that the suspect was a farmer in the area – although he did not mention Lewellyn by name at the time.
Eventually, law enforcement had enough evidence to charge Lewellyn in Sutherland’s death.
DNA testing later confirmed Sutherland’s identity. She died from blunt force trauma, according to a medical examiner’s report; her death was ruled a homicide.
“After a little more than thirteen months, Quake Lewellyn has answered for his inexcusable and horrendous actions upon an innocent young lady,” John D. Pettie, the sexual assault prosecutor for the Third Judicial District said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com following sentencing. “It is the hope of this office that the Sutherland family can now have some closure and sense of finality.”
Prosecutors said Sutherland’s family had approved the plea deal, effectively eliminating the possibility he’d be sentenced to death.
The plea deal means Lewellyn will not face a jury trial, which could have resulted in the death penalty. Prosecutors had previously said they would seek the death penalty for Lewellyn if a jury convicted him of murder.
Watch the video report below: