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Northeast Arkansas man pleads guilty to 2020 rape, murder of Sydney Sutherland

by Tess Vrbin | October 1, 2021 at 3:00 p.m.
Quake Lewellyn is shown in this photo.

The man who confessed to killing a 25-year-old Jackson County woman in 2020 will serve a life sentence in prison without chance of parole after pleading guilty Friday to charges of capital murder and rape.

Quake Lewellyn, 29, of Jonesboro, gave his plea in Jackson County Circuit Court in front of the family of Sydney Sutherland. He had already told Arkansas State Police that he raped and killed her, according to court documents.

The plea deal means Lewellyn will not face a jury trial, which could have resulted in the death penalty. Prosecutors had previously said they would seek the death penalty for Lewellyn if a jury convicted him of murder.

Lewellyn's defense attorneys recently approached the prosecution with the option of a guilty plea, and the prosecutors "sat down and talked it over extensively with the Sutherland family" before agreeing to the deal, Jackson County deputy prosecutor John Pettie told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » arkansasonline.com/102sutherland/]

The body of Sutherland, a nurse who lived in Grubbs, was found on Aug. 21, 2020, two days after she was declared missing. Lewellyn later confessed that he ran her over with his vehicle, raped her and buried her body, according to court documents.

Prior to the plea deal, Lewellyn also faced charges of kidnapping and abuse of a corpse.

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