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story.lead_photo.caption Quake Lewellyn is shown in this photo.

NEWPORT -- Sydney Sutherland had a delicate touch and a strong backbone.

"She was a petite, little thing, but she was spunky," said La Donna Johnston, who worked with Sutherland. "She had the most beautiful smile. It was very inviting."

News of her violent death last month rocked people in Jackson County and those at the hospital where Sutherland worked.

"All of us are facing this madness now," Johnston said. "You just wonder why. Why did this happen?"

The 25-year-old Sutherland had passed her boards months before her death to become a registered nurse. She worked on the floor at Unity Health-Harris Medical Center.

A standout beauty, Sutherland had a reputation for having an unwavering devotion to her patients. She was at her best caring for the elderly, her colleagues said.

Everyone who knew her well expected a long, happy career for her.

Authorities said Sutherland was out for a walk, or possibly a run, the afternoon of Aug. 19 along Arkansas 18, when she was abducted and killed. Her body was found the next day a short distance from her Newport-area home. The suspect in her death, Quake Lewellyn, 28, is charged with capital murder, rape and kidnapping.

The lead agencies in the investigation of her death are the Jackson County sheriff's office and the Arkansas State Police. Bill Sadler, an Arkansas State Police spokesman, wouldn't comment on the investigation.

Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas between drags on a cigarette spoke about the toll the "senseless" slaying has taken on him and his deputies.

"This whole thing has had a large impact on us," Lucas said. "A lot of people knew her. This is a small community."

Lewellyn is being held without bail at the Randolph County jail. Randolph County is about 60 miles north of Jackson County. Lucas said Lewellyn was transferred to Randolph County's lockup for his safety after his first court appearance.

Authorities said Lewellyn admitted to killing Sutherland after he was taken in for questioning. Lucas said Lewellyn reportedly saw Sutherland when he drove by in his truck. At one point, he doubled back, got out of the truck and attacked her, according to reports.

"That's our understanding," Lucas said.

Lewellyn and Sutherland were acquaintances, but didn't seem to know each other particularly well, according to the sheriff's office.

"I think they ran with the same crowd," Lucas said.

SMALL-TOWN GIRL

Sutherland grew up in Tuckerman, a small town in Jackson County with a population of less than 1,700.

She graduated in 2018 from Arkansas State University-Newport and started working at the hospital as a licensed practical nurse, according to the hospital. Earlier this year, she fulfilled her goal of becoming a registered nurse, Johnston said. She completed her studies in nearby Batesville.

Johnston said Sutherland was like many who grow up in small towns. She enjoyed the close-knit community and was faithful to her family, friends and community.

Sutherland attended nursing school with Maddie Staggs, 24. The two became close friends and went to work together at the hospital.

Staggs said Sutherland had been pushing her to take her exams to become a registered nurse.

"She was compassionate ... and a firecracker," Staggs said.

"She genuinely cared for everybody," she continued. "She was always pushing people to be better."

Staggs remembered Sutherland during her lunch break Friday, and her eyes at times welled with tears. She last spoke with Sutherland the day before her death.

She avoided discussing Sutherland's disappearance, instead focusing on what made her friend unique. "She was definitely a person you wanted to work with the elderly," she said. "She always had patience. I never saw her lose it.

"She was such a hard worker. She never sat down."

Johnston, who is the hospital's administrator, said counseling services are being offered to the hospital staff.

Lucas said he has been actively involved in the investigation, along with two of his major cases detectives and the Arkansas State Police.

It has been a difficult two weeks for Lucas, who has been the sheriff in Jackson County for 16 years.

"I knew her, and I know her family," Lucas said. He described her as a "young, vibrant lady" who was well-liked by everyone.

"It's always harder when it's somebody you know," he said.

THE INVESTIGATION

The case remains in its early stages, investigators and attorneys have said.

Henry Boyce, the Jackson County prosecutor, did not respond to messages left with his assistant last week.

Bill James, a Little Rock attorney, is representing Lewellyn. He said Friday that he has not seen any paperwork on the case since being assigned to it last week.

"I don't have anything yet," James said. "We're just now getting into it."

The only document he has seen with his client's name on it is the form submitted via the state Public Defender Commission, he said.

As of Friday, the Jackson County circuit clerk's office did not have any of the case records on file, including Lewellyn's arrest affidavit.

Lewellyn's first court appearance was Aug. 24.

Lucas said several search warrants were signed and executed during the earliest days of the investigation. Much of the evidence is still being analyzed, he said.

"This case is far from over," Lucas said.

Several agencies were called to Jackson County after news broke of Sutherland's disappearance. One of the agencies "most crucial" in locating Sutherland's body, Lucas said, was the National Child Protection Task Force, a nonprofit created to help law enforcement in human trafficking and missing persons cases.

The task force was founded in March 2019 in Northwest Arkansas by Kevin Metcalf, a deputy prosecutor in Washington County.

Metcalf, who has a military and law enforcement background, said the agency uses technology that many law enforcement departments don't have at their immediate disposal to track victims and suspects.

The last-known person to see Sutherland alive was a UPS driver who spotted her jogging midafternoon Aug. 19 near Arkansas 18 between Newport and Grubbs, Metcalf said.

Based on what the witness told authorities, Metcalf said he was able to pinpoint a location of where Sutherland could be and where anyone else could have encountered her.

"Using some of our tools and our expertise, we were able to determine someone else had come onto that route around that same time," Metcalf said. He declined to be more specific.

Court records show that Lewellyn has no felony convictions, and Lucas said that as far as he knows Lewellyn has no history of violence.

"You can never understand why something like this can happen," Lucas said. "We're having to deal with the depravity of man. ... We still have a lot of questions. The only one who has all the answers is the Lord."

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