Quake Lewellyn of Jonesboro will spend the rest of his life in prison for raping and killing Sydney Sutherland near her home in the Tuckerman area.
For Maggie Sutherland, the mother of the 24-year-old nurse, it was the end of a long journey.
“Today, we cross the finish line in our fight for justice for Sydney,” the victim’s mother said during a tearful victim impact statement Friday afternoon. “ … She should be here.”
Maggie Sutherland was one of several family members who had something to say after Lewellyn pleaded guilty to capital murder and rape. Circuit Judge Rob Ratton sentenced Lewellyn, 29, whose family has farming operations in Craighead, Jackson, White and Independence counties, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prior to sentencing, Deputy Prosecutor John Pettie gave a brief synopsis of the case.
Court documents show Lewellyn told a mental health professional that he struck the woman with his truck while checking wells in the area.
Though he was “scared and afraid,” he then loaded Sutherland’s body into the tailgate of his truck and drove her to a rice field, where he planned to bury her, according to reports. Lewellyn confessed to raping her before burying her in a shallow grave.
The victim’s iPhone was found in a field along Jackson 41 Road South. Sutherland’s body was found yards away from where Lewellyn’s phone pinged following a two-day search by law enforcement and hundreds of community volunteers.
Maggie Sutherland ordered Lewellyn to look at her as she spoke. He did so, but showed no emotion during the 20-minute hearing.
“What you took from us 408 days ago we’ll never get again,” she said after previously asking, “Was it really worth it?”
She said Lewellyn was cruel to Sydney’s family even after the murder, watching them frantically search for her, knowing exactly where he had buried her.
In a written statement, father Dion Sutherland said, “Quake you are a 300-pound coward that hit my 100-pound daughter with a 3,000-pound truck.”
Sam Sutherland, in a statement read on his behalf by a family friend, said he has endured sleepless nights every night since Aug. 19, 2020, when Sydney was last seen alive, and having to explain to his own 5-year-old daughter why her aunt isn’t around.
“Quake, I want you to feel the same hopelessness as I felt watching our mother say goodbye to Sydney for the last time.”
Though he said he believed Lewellyn should be put to death for his crime, “This plea deal is better for my family and myself, knowing you will spend every day in prison.”
Maggie Sutherland, during her statement, reminded Lewellyn he is in for a life of misery behind bars.
“I take pleasure in knowing that from this day forward you’ll be known as a number with no name,” Sydney’s mother said.