Another Sunday, another True Crime story. Today I am bringing you another case from Arkansas. Maybe it’s because I have lived in Arkansas my whole life and it has been nothing but good to me, but I am always shocked when terrible things happen so close to home. This case is nothing short of heartbreaking and down right unfair. Just one day after returning from a family beach vacation, Sydney Claire Sutherland was murdered by an acquaintance in the small town of Grubbs, Arkansas. This is her story, thank you for spending your Sunday with me.
Content warning – This post mentions sexual abuse, death of a child, and and murder. This post is not appropriate for all ages.
Jackson County, Arkansas is a tight-knit community with about ten rural small towns residing in it. The largest town has a population of just 7500. Residents describe it as a great place to raise a family and make long-lasting friendships. It has a large farming community and the people within these towns really take the phrase “it takes a village” to heart. Everybody knows everybody and everybody helps each other out whether it be taking turns with carpooling, volunteering for sporting events, or participating in school functions to help fellow parents out.
In one of those small towns, lived the Sutherland family. Dion and Maggy Sutherland had three children, two sons, Sam and Tyler, and their youngest child, a daughter, Sydney. Dion ran Sutherland Farms with the help of his sons, the farm was passed onto him from his late parents. They spent many family vacations together on the beach, at baseball games, and spending time with their many family friends. This family was truly loved by everyone in town.
Maggy had a special relationship with her daughter Sydney and referred to her as her best friend. Sydney adored her older brothers, they always looked out for her, and the three were very close. They all had many friends and were active in school activities and in the community. Sydney’s favorite pass time was shopping and her favorite color was pink. In the hallways of Tuckerman High School, Sydney would be seen surrounded by friends having a good time. She was known for being loud, sassy, and sweet. She was active in Spanish Club, Beta Club, Key Club, played on the softball team, and earned the title of Outstanding Senior her senior year of High School. She posted often on social media about her big life events and you could tell, she had the life every high school girl dreamed of. She drove a beautiful Chevy Camaro and had the world at her fingertips. She was undeniably beautiful inside and out. She graduated in 2014 and her senior quote was “The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.” She did just that.
After High School, Sydney attended ASU Newport and graduated in 2018 with her LPN license. In December of 2019, she became a Registered Nurse after graduating from the University of Arkansas Community College. Her family was very proud of their nurse! She worked at Unity Health Harris Medical Center and she was loved by her coworkers and her patients.
Sydney had been in a relationship with her boyfriend, Alex, since 2018 and she was very close with his family according to Alex’s Mom. She said Sydney fit right into their family from the first time they met her, they really loved her.
In 2018, Sydney got one of the most important titles she would receive during her life, she became an Aunt. She had two nieces by the year 2020 and even though she had a busy schedule, she spent as much time with them as she could. She loved her family and was usually in charge of putting together family events and was always sure to tell everyone what they needed to bring to their get-togethers.
Unfortunately, another family in this small town would become a huge part of the Sutherland’s family story but not in a way anyone in the community could have ever imagined.
The Lewellyn family is a three-time generation family of farmers. They own 5800 acres of farmland in four different counties in Arkansas and in 2016 their farm was named Jackson County Farm Family of the Year. They seemed to be a very close happy family as they helped each other complete daily chores on their farms. Michael Lewellyn, the second-generation farmer in this family, met a single Mom by the name of Kerri and they married in 2005. Kerri had a son, Quake, whom Michael adopted and raised as his own even though Quake was already in 9th grade. Quake said Michael was his main father figure in life and his biological dad was in and out of his life. He also attended Tuckerman High School and graduated in 2010, four years before Sydney. Quake showed a side of anger in High School as he was suspended multiple times for fighting. Sydney knew who Quake was but the two ran in different social groups and they were not close whatsoever.
He married in 2018 to a woman named Gracie who had three daughters, none of which belonged to him biologically. Quake, Gracie, and their three daughters moved in with Quake’s parents so they could save money to build their own home. According to Quake, the living arrangements were good and he cooked, cleaned, worked on the family farms, and helped take care of the three girls. Quake often posted on Facebook about Gracie and how much he loved her. From the outside looking in, this was one big happy blended family.
The Sutherlands returned from a family beach vacation on Tuesday, August 18th, 2020. Her brothers went back to work the next day and Sydney didn’t waste any time getting back into her very active schedule. She had a passion for fitness and taking care of herself. On Wednesday she had a session with her fitness trainer and she called her Mom to check in with her. She told her Mom about her fitness session and how she was about to go for a run. Sydney’s mom suggested that since they just got back from vacation and had just worked out that maybe she skip the run and rest for the rest of the day but Sydney loved running and said that it would release her.
Around 2:00 pm that afternoon, Sydney left for her afternoon run. When Sydney would go on her runs, she ran the same route along Jackson County Road 41, which was just 1.3 miles from her home. She felt safe running along the highway because she was running in the town that she grew up in and she knew everyone. Nobody thought there was a single person in this town that would hurt anyone and give anyone a reason to feel unsafe. That was until August 19th, 2020.
At the same time, Quake was driving nearby as his home was just 7 minutes from County Road 41 and he was checking on rice fields. He spotted Sydney running along the highway.
Around 5:00 pm Sydney’s Mom, Maggie, got a call from Alex, Sydney’s boyfriend asking if she had heard from Sydney because she hadn’t returned home. They started calling, texting, and even snap chatting Sydney but they heard nothing from her. Maggie knew something wasn’t right. They called to report her missing around 7:00 pm and the search began to find Sydney.
Everyone in the community showed up and it was reported that at least 150 people showed up that evening. They searched into the early morning hours. Quake even showed up at one point and he made a statement saying he saw Sydney running along the highway. Maggie pleaded with Quake to remember anything else but all he could say was Sydney was just running along the highway. Quake gave Maggie a side hug and she said when he hugged her, she knew something wasn’t right.
The search party continued into Thursday and that night they found Sydney’s phone a quarter of a mile from her home and the phone was not damaged. Sheriff Lucas said they were following a few leads they had and on Friday, August 21st, they found Sydney’s body on farmland owned by the Lewellyn family.
I think the saddest part of this case is that Sydney’s brother was the one who had to make the drive to their Mom and tell her that his baby sister and her baby girl would never come home. No brother or mother should ever have to have that conversation.
Quake and his Dad headed to the police department for an interview after her body was found because he was the last person to see Sydney. During the interview, Quake confessed to turning around when he saw Sydney and hitting Sydney with his truck. He claimed it was an accident and he was scared of getting in trouble for hitting her so he put her body in the back of his pickup truck. Why did he turn around? I don’t believe anything about this case was an accident. Eventually, he also admitted to taking her shorts off and raping her after she was deceased then he buried her on his farmland. He said he went home, ate dinner with his family, didn’t tell anyone what he did, and “tried to forget about her.” He was arrested and denied bail.
A local who knew Quake made the following statement to Today in Fort Smith:
“Quake has always been trouble to one degree or another. When he was younger, he was caught peering into the bathroom and bedroom windows of local women. He tried to watch women change clothes or shower.”
The local also confirmed rumors that Quake would hurt small animals by putting them in microwaves and watching them die and wished something would have been done about Quake a long time ago. They also wanted the public to know that Quake’s family should not be blamed and they are good people.
Quake was charged with Capital murder, kidnapping, rape, and abuse of a corpse. There was no trial. On October 1st, 2021, to avoid the death penalty, he took a plea deal, life without the possibility of parole. At the sentencing, Maggy Sutherland looked Quake in the eye and said “She was not yours to take. Satan is real.” He will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Quake’s now ex-wife was granted a divorce in 2020. According to her Facebook, her and her daughters are doing very well, leaning on their Christian faith, and trying to put this all behind them.
It has been two years since Sydney was taken from her loved ones and I can only imagine the pain they endure every day without her. Sydney’s friends, family, and all the people who love her do an amazing job of keeping the memory of Sydney alive. They host fundraisers, celebrations of her life, and marathons in honor of Sydney. All proceeds go to the Sydney Sutherland Memorial scholarship for nursing students at ASU – Newport.
The best way to help the Sutherland family and honor Sydney is to donate to her Memorial Scholarship. Click here to access the website and under fund* find Sydney Sutherland Memorial Scholarship.
It seems like there are so many women on the news right now being murdered while out running. Every woman should feel safe while they are out on runs and it seems so unfair that so many women don’t return home safely from doing what they love. Keep yourself safe by carrying pepper spray, a gun, or whatever you can defend yourself with.
Thank you for reading this Sunday’s True Crime Story. Please share Sydney’s story with your friends and family, everyone should know her story. I hope you all have a safe week ahead of you. – Megan