JACKSON COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - The Arkansas State Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled that cause of death for Sydney Sutherland was multiple blunt force injuries and that the manner of death was homicide, Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas said Thursday evening.
Lucas said the full autopsy report on the 25-year-old woman, who was found dead in August, has not been completed.
“Also understand that in order to protect the integrity of this investigation, there will be no further updates sent until its completion,” Lucas said.
An Arkansas State Police investigator said in court that the man accused of killing Sutherland, Quake Lewellyn, admitted to abducting and sexually assaulting her before killing her.
At 2 p.m. Aug. 24, Quake Lewellyn arrived at the Jackson County Circuit Court for his first appearance before Judge Harold Erwin.
An ASP agent said on the stand that Lewellyn “admitted to seeing Sutherland walking on CR 41.”
Lewellyn reportedly then abducted her, took her to farmland and sexually assaulted her, then buried her body.
After reviewing the affidavit, Erwin found probable cause to charge Lewellyn with capital murder, kidnapping, and rape. He ordered Lewellyn be held without bond. His next court appearance is set for Oct. 1.
Lewellyn has been sent to stay in the Randolph County jail, as the case proceeds.
Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce spoke to Region 8 News Monday and said there are lots of unanswered questions that must be confirmed before charges are formally filed.
“A lot of people do not understand that an arrest can be made, and a person can be put in jail without actually being formally charged,” Boyce said. “Charges are based upon the discretion and the decision of the prosecuting attorney office. It’s solely within my discretion frankly to decide what charges are born forth by the proof that the police and the sheriff’s office has gathered in support of our case.”
Boyce also said he knew both families and that while he may hold sympathy for the victims, he knows he must remain objective in his line of work.
“I happen to personally know the family of the victim, as I do the family of the defendant. It’s hard to live your life in a community of this size and not know just about everybody,” Boyce said. “Although it may be impactful on the tragedy, it doesn’t affect my judgment.”
Jackson County sheriff’s deputies arrested Lewellyn, 28, of Jonesboro on suspicion of murder in the death of Sydney Sutherland.
His arrest came Friday after searchers found Sutherland’s body.
According to friends and family, Sutherland went on a jog near her home on Highway 18 on Wednesday and never returned.
The Arkansas State Medical Examiner in Little Rock, using DNA collected, confirmed the body was Sutherland’s, according to Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas.
During an earlier news conference, Sheriff Lucas said Lewellyn knew Sutherland.
He said the situation was a “very tragic case” and that his department received help from countless volunteers and law enforcement agencies in the state.
The sheriff said the case was especially difficult for him because he knows the family, adding that Sutherland went to school with his daughters.
“It’s taken a toll, it really has. Just because I know the people of this county. I know this family personally. I know this young lady personally. I’ve known her and watched her grow up. It hits me personally. And that’s another reason why we want to work so hard and try to find her,” Lucas said.
Community members in Jackson County spoke to NBC affiliate KARK Tuesday, saying they want Sutherland to be remembered for the person she was.
“She will be remembered forever and not because of what happened but because of who she was,” longtime friend Jordan Tyler Chatman said.
“I don’t want anyone to think Sydney’s life was a tragedy because Sydney’s life was beautiful,” Melanie Clark said. “Sydney was probably the best part of what every human wants to be.”
Sutherland had not been seen since Wednesday afternoon. Jackson County deputies got a call Wednesday evening about Sutherland being missing. She was seen jogging off Highway 18 between Newport and Grubbs around 3 p.m., going west.
Thursday evening, authorities found Sydney Sutherland’s cell phone about a quarter-mile from her home and Highway 67.
Sheriff Lucas confirmed during a news conference that a UPS driver reported seeing Sutherland Wednesday afternoon near County Road 41.
“We just want her home,” Jennifer Eddington, Sydney’s co-worker at Harris Medical Center in Newport told our reporters during the nearly three-day search.
Eddington says anyone who knows Sydney knows she’s very bright and outgoing. She says family means everything to her.
“She’s very close to her family,” Eddington said. “We just know that she wouldn’t leave on her own without contacting somebody, that’s not her nature at all.”
The community showed up in droves, with cars lining the sides of the road, to help search for her. Her Sydney’s friends and co-workers brought food and drinks for those helping with the search.
“We are not surprised,” Eddington said. “Jackson County is just that way. We’re a close community. We just want her to be safe and be found.”
Her family, as well as the 2014 senior class at Tuckerman, held a candlelight vigil at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Tuckerman City Park to remember Sutherland.
Visitation will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Jackson’s Newport Funeral Home, 1900 Malcolm Avenue, in Newport. Funeral services will also be held Friday at 2 p.m. at ASU-Newport Center for the Arts.