An Arkansas farmer evaded a potential death sentence ruling on Friday by pleading guilty to the rape and murder of a nurse who was fatally struck by a pick-up truck, sexually assaulted, and disposed of in a rice field last year.
Quake Lewellyn, 29, pleaded guilty to the capital murder and rape of Sydney Sutherland, 25, in a Newtown court on Friday, according to documents obtained by Oxygen. In the plea statement, Lewellyn waived his right to a jury trial and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Two Days After Being Reported Missing Sydney Sutherland’s Body Was Discovered in a Rice Field.
On August 21, 2020, Sutherland’s body was found in a makeshift grave in a rice field in Jackson County, Arkansas. The discovery of her remains came two days after the nurse and mother of two was reported missing. According to court documents, her mobile phone had been found an hour after she went missing just a mile from her home.
Lewellyn had initially been questioned by authorities and he told them that he had seen Sutherland running on a nearby road. The farmer consented to a search of his phone. Using a GPS app, the police tracked Lewellyn’s movements which turned out to be a fruitful endeavor. They were able to place him two miles from where Sutherland’s phone was found and eventually, they were able to place him at the site of her burial in the rice field.
A medical examiner had determined Sutherland’s cause of death, blunt force trauma, and declared it to be 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 told Oxygen after the sentencing hearing. “It is the hope of this office that the Sutherland family can now have some closure and sense of finality.”
Prosecutors had asked Sutherland’s family about the plea deal to which they approved, eliminating the possibility of a death sentence.
“No length of incarceration, no punishment available under the law will ever be sufficient to provide retribution for the deeds of the evil mind that perpetrated these heinous acts,” Pettie explained. “This outcome ensures that Quake Lewellyn will never again breath free air and that the Sutherland family will not have to suffer the renewed trauma of appeal after appeal that accompanies death penalty cases.”
In a Statement, Lewellyn Admitted to Hitting Sutherland But Said It Was Not an Intentional Murder But an Accident Instead.
In his plea, Lewellyn admitted to hitting Sutherland with his truck as he was tending to wells on the rice field. He initially had claimed he hit the victim by accident as a “cloud of dust” obscured his vision.
“It was all just a blur,” Lewellyn said during the forensic evaluation with a court psychologist. “At this point, I was scared and afraid I was gonna be in trouble for running her over.”
Lewellyn loaded the victim’s body into the bed of the truck and then drove her to the site of her burial where he then removed her shorts and raped her before burying her. He returned to his home and “tried to forget about it.” At the time, he lived with his wife and three stepchildren.
The victim’s family packed the court for the sentencing hearing Friday and said their piece.
“Quake, will you look at me in the eyes?” Maggy Sutherland, the victim’s mom, asked as part of her reading of a victim impact statement, KLRT-TV reported. “Did she fight you? Did she cry? Did she ask for her brothers?”
“She was not yours to take,” Maggy Sutherland added. “Satan is real. The hands you hugged me with are the same hands you killed her with.”
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In Sutherland’s obituary, her family characterized her as a “genuine spirit” and “a bright ray of sunshine” who enjoyed exercising, animals, shopping, and books.
Lewellyn and Sutherland knew each other and attended the same high school in Tuckerman, Arkansas, police said. The victim had recently unfriended Lewellyn on Facebook prior to her death, the case’s affidavit stated.
“We’re certainly very happy and thankful to the family of the Sutherlands,” Bill James, Lewellyn’s public defender said in a statement. “They showed us mercy. Because the truth is, it was very likely going to head towards the death penalty. The pretrial publicity took over in a way I’ve never really been involved in before.”
We hope this plea and sentencing offer a token of peace to the Sutherland family.
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