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Mental exam due for suspect in Jackson County slaying of nurse

by Stephen Simpson | December 30, 2020 at 4:42 a.m.
Quake Lewellyn is shown in this photo.

A man charged in the rape and killing of a Jackson County nurse along a rural highway will undergo a mental health evaluation to determine whether he is fit to stand trial, according to court documents.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Harold Erwin has ordered criminal responsibility and fitness examinations to proceed for Quake Lewellyn, the Jonesboro man accused in the death of Sydney Sutherland.

Lewellyn, 28, is accused of killing Sutherland, 25, on Aug. 19 after he spotted her jogging near her home in the Grubbs area, according to authorities. He is awaiting trial on charges of capital murder, rape, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

The court order from Dec. 4 states Lewellyn has filed notice that he intends to rely on the defense of mental disease or defect. All further proceedings in the prosecution are immediately suspended until the tests are complete.

The Division of Behavioral Health of the Department of Human Services will have up to 60 days to determine if Lewellyn suffers from a mental disease or defect, and whether he lacks the capacity to assist lawyers who are defending him.

Lewellyn's attorney, Bill James of Little Rock, made a motion Nov. 19 for a mental health evaluation for his client.

The motion stated that James had "reason to believe" that because of the defendant's "mental disease or defect," Lewellyn may not have the capacity to understand the case against him. James also wrote that Lewellyn's ability to assist in his defense may be in question.

James said any evaluation should include testing for mental disability.

State law allows such a request if the defendant's fitness to stand trial is in doubt.

The case has been highly publicized since word spread of Sutherland's disappearance. Her body was found two days after she was reported missing, with Lewellyn's arrest announced shortly after that.

The Jackson County sheriff's office said Lewellyn was arrested after admitting to the crime during an interview with detectives, according to the Jackson County sheriff's office. The Arkansas State Police also took part in the investigation.

A search of Lewellyn's cellphone showed that he had been in the geographical area where Sutherland's body was found, according to court documents.

Detectives said Lewellyn ran over Sutherland with his pickup in the area of County Road 41 South. He then drove her to a nearby field, had sexual intercourse with her on the tailgate of his truck, dug a hole and placed her body in it, according to detectives.

Lewellyn's truck had a dent in it and traces of Sutherland's blood were found in the cracks of the tailgate, authorities said.

Sutherland was a registered nurse at Unity Health-Harris Medical Center. She had passed her boards to become a registered nurse only a few months before her death.

Sutherland attended Tuckerman High School. Lewellyn attended the same school. The two were a few years apart but knew each other, detectives said.


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