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Attorney: Man held in slaying needs test

Mental health in question, he says by Tony Holt | November 28, 2020 at 4:03 a.m.
Quake Lewellyn is shown in this photo.

The attorney for the man charged in the rape and slaying of a Jackson County nurse along a rural highway will seek a mental health evaluation for his client, according to court documents.

Quake Lewellyn, 28, of Jonesboro is accused in the death of Sydney Sutherland, 25, on the afternoon of Aug. 19 after he spotted her jogging near her home in the Grubbs area, according to authorities.

Lewellyn is awaiting trial on charges of capital murder, rape, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse, and remains jailed without bail.

Lewellyn's attorney, Bill James of Little Rock, stated in his motion that he has "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 also should include testing for mental disability.

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

"This request is in the best interest of Mr. Lewellyn, and not for the purpose of delay," James wrote in his motion, which was filed last week in Jackson County Circuit Court.

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

Officers with the Arkansas State Police and Jackson County sheriff's office worked the investigation, and the sheriff's office said Lewellyn was arrested after admitting to the crime during his interview with detectives.

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, 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.

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

Lewellyn, who is being held at the Randolph County jail, is scheduled to appear Feb. 16 in court. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

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