JACKSON COUNTY, Ark. — The psychological evaluation of an Arkansas farmer accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a nurse who vanished while jogging last summer offers a disturbing narrative of the day Sydney Sutherland died.
Quake Lewellyn, 28, of Jonesboro, is competent to stand trial, according to the psychologist who evaluated him at the Arkansas State Hospital in January. He was also competent at the time of his alleged crimes, the doctor’s report states.
The report is a blow to the defense, who had requested the evaluation.
Lewellyn is charged with capital murder, rape, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse in the death of Sutherland, 25, of Newport. Sutherland’s body was found on Aug. 21, two days after she disappeared, buried on farmland in rural Jackson County.
The Arkansas State Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Sutherland, who worked as a registered nurse at Unity Health Harris Medical Center in Newport, died of multiple blunt force injuries.
According to authorities, Sutherland was last spotted alive the afternoon of Aug. 19 as she ran along Jackson County Road 41 between the cities of Newport and Grubbs. Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas said the last confirmed sighting of the missing woman was from a UPS driver who saw her walking and jogging between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
A post on a relative’s Facebook page showed Sutherland at the family member’s home around 1 p.m., just before she headed out for her run.
An affidavit in the case indicates that Sutherland was reported missing around 7 p.m. when she failed to return. The following day, Sutherland’s iPhone was found in a field just over a mile from her home.
Her vehicle and other personal items were all at her home.
Sutherland’s disappearance prompted the tight-knit rural community where both she and her alleged killer grew up to band together to search for her. According to reports, Lewellyn, who had known Sutherland prior to the crime, joined a Facebook group dedicated to finding the missing woman, whose obituary said she was known for her “outgoing, sweet personality.”
“Sydney’s compassionate nature and genuine spirit endeared her to all who met her,” the obituary said. “Sydney loved to exercise, listen to books and play with her dogs. Shopping was also one of her favorite pastimes.”
The beloved nurse was known as “Sassy” to friends and family.
“She especially enjoyed her family and cherished her time with them,” her family wrote in her obituary. “Sydney loved being Sassy to her nieces, Mila and Leni.”
Lewellyn became a suspect in the killing after he went to the police station to talk to investigators about seeing Sutherland the afternoon she vanished. He ultimately decided to confess, he said during his evaluation.
“They’re saying I kidnapped and raped and killed her … Sydney Sutherland,” Lewellyn reportedly told Dr. Lacey C. Willett, the forensic psychologist who evaluated him.
Willett wrote that Lewellyn told her he was “driving to check the wells and the rice fields” when he spotted Sutherland walking along a gravel road. He said he drove past her, but that he turned his truck around.
Upon turning around, he no longer saw Sutherland, he alleged.
“I guess because the gravel road was still dusty,” Lewellyn said.
Lewellyn told Willett he believed Sutherland may have crossed the road, at which time he struck her with his truck.
“I felt her hit my truck, so I slowed down,” he said, according to the report.
Read the doctor’s evaluation below.
Lewellyn’s account of the crime contradicts testimony from an August probable cause hearing, in which Arkansas State Police special Agent Mike McNeill testified that Lewellyn forced Sutherland into the back of his truck. McNeill said Lewellyn then drove Sutherland to a field about three miles away and raped her before killing her.
In his interview with Willett, Lewellyn said that after he struck Sutherland, he got out of the truck and approached her to ask if she was OK. When she didn’t respond, he believed she was dead.
“At this point, I was scared and afraid I was gonna be in trouble for running her over,” Lewellyn said, according to Willett.
He told the doctor he placed Sutherland’s body on the tailgate of his pickup truck “to hide her body so (he) wouldn’t be in trouble.”
Lewellyn said he then drove to the rice field he had been heading to and dug a grave.
It is at that point in the report that Lewellyn’s alleged admissions become more disturbing.
“(Lewellyn) said that he took Sydney’s clothing off ‘and tried messing with her a bit,’” Willett wrote. “When asked to clarify what he meant by ‘messing with her,’ he was advised by the attorneys present not to discuss this further.”
The probable cause affidavit indicates that Lewellyn told detectives he “took off her shorts and raped Sutherland, then buried her at that location.”
Lewellyn’s cellphone data corroborates his location the afternoon that Sutherland was killed, investigators said in the court records. Authorities used Sutherland’s cellphone records, as well as data from her Apple Watch, to determine her movements, as well.
Lewellyn admitted to the doctor that he buried Sutherland in the rice field.
“After burying Sydney, he ‘went back to work’ and checked wells until 5 or 6 p.m.,” Willett wrote. “He stated that he went home, ate supper and went to bed.
“He reported that he did not tell anyone what happened and ‘just tried to forget about it.’”
Later that night, Lewellyn’s father called him to ask if he’d seen Sutherland, who by that time had been reported missing. He told him he’d seen the missing woman but said nothing more.
The next day, Lewellyn said, he “went to work just like normal.”
A police officer spoke to him by phone that day, and Lewellyn said he was cooperative. Because he was the last person, other than the UPS driver, to see Sutherland, he went with his father to the police station on Aug. 21 to speak further with detectives.
He was “still hoping he would not be caught,” Lewellyn said, according to Willett.
“He explained that he agreed to take a polygraph, but the investigator ultimately decided not to test him,” Willett wrote. “He remembered that he then decided to confess, and provided multiple statements.”
Lewellyn told the doctor he knew each crime he was accused of was against the law, but he said everything was “just a blur” at the time he killed Sutherland.
“I knew I didn’t kill her on purpose,” Lewellyn said, according to the report.
Willett wrote that she found no evidence of mental disease or defect that would cause Lewellyn to not know what he was doing when he allegedly killed and sexually assaulted Sutherland.
“Rather, he maintained his own farm at that time and engaged in a number of rational, goal-directed behaviors before and after the offense, such as completing farm tasks the day of and the day following the offense, and having dinner with his family,” the doctor’s report states. “Moreover, he reported that he was not feeling different or experiencing any stressors during the timeframe of the offense.”
Lewellyn was also able to appreciate that his actions were wrong, Willett found. He proved that by hiding her body in his truck, burying her and keeping what had happened to himself.
“Importantly, there is no indication that he was experiencing any symptoms of a mental disease or mental defect at the time of the offense that would have led him to believe he had a legal right to commit any of the allegations against him,” Willett wrote.
The defendant’s actions after the crime, including his cooperation with police, showed that he was capable of controlling his behavior, the doctor found.
Lewellyn, an award-winning farmer who, with his father and grandfather, was named Jackson County’s Farm Family of the Year in 2016, helped run his family’s farm, Lewellyn Farms, prior to his arrest. He also rented his own 500 acres, where he grew rice and beans.
He told Willett he had no history of mental illness or medical problems that could have contributed to the alleged crimes he committed. He said he rarely drank and had no criminal history beyond a few speeding tickets.
At the time of his arrest, he and his wife were raising her children full-time. Though they had lived in their own rented home, they had moved in with Lewellyn’s family to save money so they could build a house, the report states.
Lewellyn’s wife has since filed for divorce, KATV reported.
He remains in the Randolph County Jail, where he is being held without bond.
Lucas, the Jackson County sheriff, and prosecutors have said they know both the Sutherland and Lewellyn families well. Lucas said following the crime that his daughters went to school with Sutherland. Lewellyn also attended the same high school as the slain nurse.
“It’s taken a toll, it really has. Just because I know the people of this county,” Lucas said during the search for Sutherland in August, according to KAIT in Jonesboro. “I know this family personally. I know this young lady personally. I’ve known her and watched her grow up.”
Watch Lucas’ August news conference below, courtesy of KNWA in northwest Arkansas.
Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce also commented.
“It’s hard to live your life in a community of this size and not know just about everybody,” Boyce told KAIT.
Unity Health Harris Medical Center issued a statement after Sutherland’s body was found.
“All of us at Unity Health are deeply saddened to hear of the loss of our precious co-worker Sydney Sutherland,” the statement read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. She will be forever missed.”
Her family wrote that she was loved by her co-workers and patients alike.
© 2021 Cox Media Group