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Jonesboro man accused in rape, death says innocent

Files indicate his mom, wife alerted police to truck dent by Tony Holt | October 30, 2020 at 7:23 a.m.
Quake Lewellyn is shown in this photo.

NEWPORT -- A murder defendant accused of ramming a woman with his truck, raping her and burying her in a shallow grave in rural Jackson County two months ago pleaded innocent Thursday.

Quake Lewellyn, 28, of Jonesboro waived his court appearance Thursday and submitted paperwork seeking a jury trial on his capital murder, rape and kidnapping charges. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 16, according to the Jackson County circuit clerk's office.

Lewellyn is accused of killing Sydney Sutherland, 25, the afternoon of Aug. 19 after he spotted Sutherland jogging along a rural highway near her Grubbs-area home.

Several affidavits were filed in the case Wednesday afternoon, revealing more information about the investigation, including that Lewellyn's mother and wife contacted authorities three days after the slaying to report a mysterious dent in Lewellyn's vehicle.

Lewellyn's attorney, Bill James, said he picked up documents and other materials Thursday detailing the state's evidence in the case. He planned to review them later that day.

The case has been highly publicized since news broke that Sutherland had disappeared. Her body was discovered two days later, and Lewellyn admitted to the crime when he was questioned by investigators, according to the Arkansas State Police.

James admitted that he didn't like how the case was being depicted by certain media, but he wasn't specific. He said he was afraid people were falling into a "thirst trap" and pouncing on rumors instead of waiting for facts.

"Everyone is so anxious for information on this case, and it seems that whatever is being said about it is getting printed," James said.

On Wednesday, more facts of the investigation came to light after a total of eight affidavits were filed in the case. One of the disclosures from those affidavits was that the defendant's mother, Kerry Lewellyn, contacted law enforcement urging them to review security video from her family's property.

Investigators visited the Lewellyn home in Jonesboro and reviewed surveillance footage from Aug. 19. Kerry Lewellyn and Gracie Lewellyn, the defendant's now-estranged wife, pointed out a dent on the hood of Quake Lewellyn's truck. The dent wasn't on the truck that morning but was visible later in the day when he returned home, according to an affidavit.

Additionally, detectives searched the Lewellyn house and confiscated a pair of tan shoes that matched the pair Lewellyn was wearing in the video. Police said they suspected the tread on those shoes matched the imprints that were left in the area where Sutherland's body was discovered.

On Aug. 20, one day after Sutherland was reported missing, police found her iPhone in a field along County Road 41 South, about 1.3 miles from her home. Witnesses told police they saw Sutherland on her phone and observed a pickup in the area, according to one of the affidavits.

Lewellyn was interviewed by officers from the Arkansas State Police, and he told them he barely knew Sutherland, authorities said. Witnesses later said Lewellyn and Sutherland attended the same school in Tuckerman, which has only about 50 students per grade.

Police said they also learned that Lewellyn and Sutherland were friends on Facebook and that Lewellyn had only recently "defriended" Sutherland on the social media platform. A search warrant was filed to obtain any and all Facebook correspondence between Lewellyn and Sutherland, police said.

After he was taken in for questioning Aug. 21, Lewellyn gave police consent to search his GMC Sierra truck. During the search, investigators found what looked like blood in the cracks of the tailgate, police said.

A search of Lewellyn's phone also showed that he had been in a specific geographical location about 2.36 miles northwest of where Sutherland's iPhone was discovered, documents show. Detectives went to that location and found Sutherland's body buried in a shallow grave, according to court documents.

Lewellyn told investigators that he ran over Sutherland with his pickup, drove her to a nearby field, had sexual intercourse with her on the tailgate of his truck, used a shovel to dig a hole and placed her body in the hole, according to police records.

The clothes Lewellyn was wearing also were confiscated during the search of his house, according to an affidavit.

Lewellyn is charged with capital murder, which means he could face the death penalty if convicted. James said no one from the prosecutor's office has told him whether the death penalty will be pursued.

In addition to being charged with capital murder, rape and kidnapping, Lewellyn was charged with one count of abuse of a corpse.

Lewellyn remains behind bars without bail at the Randolph County jail. He was transferred out of the Jackson County jail for safety reasons, authorities said.

James said Thursday that there was no reason for Lewellyn to appear in court for his arraignment, especially considering he is being jailed 60 miles from the courthouse.

"He's being held up in Pocahontas, and there was no reason to drag him down to say that he is not guilty," James said.


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