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Man declared mentally fit for trial in Sutherland kidnapping, murder case

Updated: Feb. 12, 2021 at 8:31 PM CST
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NEWPORT, Ark. (KAIT) - An Arkansas State Hospital psychologist reports the man accused of killing Sydney Sutherland is fit to stand trial, according to KARK.

Quake Lewellyn faces multiple charges, including capital murder, kidnapping, and rape of the Jackson County woman.

Back in January, Lewellyn went under a mental forensic exam.

The nine-page report noted that Lewellyn was interviewed by a psychologist at the Arkansas State Hospital in Little Rock on Jan. 7. The interview included a face-to-face interview and mental status exam.

“At the time of the examination, Mr. Lewellyn did not exhibit evidence of a substantially impairing mental disease or mental defect. At the time of the examination, Mr. Lewellyn had the capacity to understand the proceedings against him and the capacity to effectively assist his attorney in his own defense,” the report noted.

The report also noted that Lewellyn did not have a history of medical problems, pertinent surgeries, seizures, traumatic brain injury or loss of consciousness and that he told officials that he is not currently prescribed any medication; as well as any history of mental health treatment, psychiatric hospitalization, suicide attempts or self-injurious behavior.

Officials also released details about what Lewellyn told the interviewer during the evaluation. Lewellyn said he saw Sutherland walking down a gravel road as he was checking wells and rice fields.

“He stated that he drove past her and turned around, but upon turning around, he no longer saw her,” the notes from interviewer Lacey Willett noted. “I guess because the gravel road was still dusty,” he said. “He explained that he believes she may have crossed to the other side of the road and he struck her with his truck.”

Lewellyn then spoke to the interviewer.

“I felt her hit my truck, so I slowed down,” he continued. “He reported that he walked over to Sydney and asked if she was okay, but she did not respond and he believed she was dead.”

Lewellyn then told Willett he was scared and afraid, so he put Sutherland’s body on the tailgate of his truck to “hide the body so (he) wouldn’t be in trouble.”

From there, Lewellyn reportedly drove to a nearby rice field and buried the body, officials said in the notes.

In December, the order was given for the mental evaluation by Circuit Judge Harold Erwin.

In the four-page order from Judge Erwin, the mental evaluation was granted for Quake Lewellyn, 28, of Jonesboro.

Lewellyn was arrested in August in connection with the death of Sydney Sutherland.

Attorney William O. “Bill” James of Little Rock requested the mental evaluation Nov. 19 in court filings in Jackson County Circuit Court.

In the request, James said Lewellyn, who also faces an abuse of a corpse charge, may not understand the charges against him.

“That defense counsel has reason to believe that due to mental disease or defect, Mr. Lewellyn may not fully understand the proceedings against him, and may not have been able to fully appreciate the criminality of the conduct with which he is accused and his ability to assist in his defense may be in question,” James said in the November filing. “That pursuant to A.C.A. 5-2-304, Counsel for Defense requests that a mental evaluation be performed to determine the Defendant’s fitness to proceed and criminal responsibility and this request should include testing for mental retardation. Counsel requests a written report be filed with this Court in order for this Court to make a determination as to his mental state. This request is in the best interest of Mr. Lewellyn, and not for the purpose to delay.”

In the order, Judge Erwin immediately suspended all further proceedings in the case.

The order noted that the Division of Behavioral Health Services of the Department of Human Services is directed to determine who will examine Lewellyn, plus be given information from the prosecuting attorney’s office on the case as well as Lewellyn’s background “that is deemed relevant to the examination, including the criminal history of the defendant.”

Once the examination is done, the court will receive a report that should show the following:

  • A description of the nature of the examination.
  • A description of any evidence that the defendant is feigning a sign or symptom of mental disease or defect.
  • A finding as to whether the defendant has a mental disease or defect or if unable to make such a determination, the reasons therefore.
  • A specific description of the signs or symptoms of mental disease or defect, if in the opinion of the examiner the defendant has a mental disease or defect.
  • A substantiated diagnosis in the terminology of the American Psychiatric Association’s current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
  • An opinion on whether the defendant lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or her and to assist effectively in his or her own defense as a consequence of mental disease or defect, and an explanation of the examiner’s opinion and the basis of the opinion.

According to the order, the examination is expected to take at least 60 days or possibly longer, depending on what is determined to be necessary for the examination to be done.

Officials said in August that the Arkansas State Medical Examiner’s office ruled that Sutherland’s cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries, with the manner of death being homicide.

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