"Life can change so fast, so unexpectedly. Love when you can, while you can, as much as you can."
It was the 19th of August 2020. A Wednesday. Twenty five year old Sydney Sutherland had a day off work that day. She had just returned from a family vacation. They went to Destin in Florida and had a great time. Sydney got to spend some time at the beach, something that she loved to do. Sydney was very close to her family and spent a lot of time with her parents, Dion and Maggy, and her two brothers, Tyler and Sam and her nieces Mila and Leni.
That day, the 19th of August, Sydney went over to visit her mother Maggy at home. She was her normal happy self and went out and got her mail for her and stayed at the house for a while. Sydney left a short while later to go to her own house. She told Maggy that she wanted to either make some brownies or cookies that day.
Sydney Sutherland and her mother Maggy
Sydney lived with her boyfriend of four years Alex Nicholson in Newport, Arkansas, United States. She was a registered nurse at Unity Health-Harris Medical Center and had just passed her boards. Sydney was a hard worker and devoted to her patients and those that worked with her believed she was in the perfect profession for her and she particularly enjoyed looking after the elderly. Even though Sydney was sassy and fun, she cared deeply about others.
At 5pm that evening, Maggy received a call from Alex. He told her that he got home and Sydney wasn't there and he didn't know where she was. Her car and personal belongings were still at home. Maggy was at their house within fifteen minutes and called her husband and sons on the way and told them that Sydney was missing. Alex told Maggy that the last time he spoke to Sydney, she told him she was going for a jog.
Sydney Sutherland and her boyfriend Alex
They walked along the likely route Sydney would have taken but there was no sign of her. Maggy called the police. She also contacted AT&T to try and track Sydney's phone and Apple Watch. By that stage, the word had spread that Sydney was missing and there were social media posts posted on different platforms appealing for any information about her and a large group gathered at the house to help search for her. The gravity of the situation was evident from the outset.
The Arkansas State Police and the FBI led the search and three helicopters were used to search from the air. As there was no sign of Sydney near the house and no sign that she may have fallen or been in an accident, it was feared that she had been abducted. But it would have had to be a chance encounter as Sydney did not run at the same time or on the same day every week as she worked as a nurse so her shifts were different.
The last picture of Sydney Sutherland-taken from the RING camera at her house the day she disappeared
From information the police received, they established that Sydney was last seen at 3pm that afternoon near Newport which is around 80 miles northeast of Little Rock. The last known person to see her alive was a UPS driver who saw her jogging that afternoon near Arkansas 18 between Newport and Grubbs.
Sydney Sutherland with her poodles, Harper and Nash
Based on that information, police knew where to search and they also tried to establish who else took that route and who may have seen her. The day after Sydney was reported missing, police found her iPhone in a field along Jackson County Road 41 South. It was just over one mile from her home. A few hundred yards from where Sydney's phone was found, police found her sunglasses. They were broken and in a barn.
Police spoke to twenty eight year old Quake Lewellyn on the 21st of August in relation to Sydney's disappearance. Quake was from a farming background and was an award winning farmer from Jonesboro. He was married and well known in the area. Authorities claimed that he initially told them that he saw Sydney jog by his truck the day she went missing. He told them that he saw her running down Country Road 41. Nobody else reported seeing her after that time. Quake consented to his phone being searched and police located a location services Life360 application which tracks the phone’s geographical location installed on his phone.
That application showed that one hour after Alex had returned home and was concerned that Sydney was missing, Quake's phone was at a geographical location a little over two miles from where Sydney's phone was found. He consented to a search of his 2019 GMC Sierra pickup truck. Police found what they believed to be blood on the tailgate and blood inside the cracks of the tailgate.
Police went to the location where the application showed Quake's phone was and just a few yards away, they found a body in a deserted field. DNA testing confirmed it was Sydney's body. She was found two days after she was reported missing.
Quake allegedly told police that he saw Sydney that day, drove past her and turned his truck around. He hit her with his truck and dragged her into the vehicle. It is further alleged that Quake said that he drove her to a field nearby and raped her on the tailgate of his truck. Police claim that he used a shovel to dig a hole in the ground and he buried Sydney there. There were shoe prints on top of and near the hole that had been dug in the ground.
A Medical Examiner ruled Sydney died from multiple blunt force injuries and the manner of death was ruled as a homicide but the full details of the Autopsy have not been reported yet.
Quake was charged with capital murder, rape, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse. Due to the capital murder charge, if convicted, Quake could face the death penalty.
It has been reported that Sydney and Quake knew each other but not well. They went to the same high school and were friends on Facebook until Quake unfriended her. Police have asked Facebook to provide the details of the exact time and date that Quake unfriended her.
An Affidavit filed in Court revealed that Quake's mother and his wife assisted police with the investigation. They gave surveillance footage from their farm to the police which showed a dent on Quake's truck that appeared the day Sydney disappeared. In the surveillance footage,Quake is seen wearing “Sanuk style” shoes that police believe match the footprints found near where Sydney was buried. Shoes and clothing were taken from his home for evidence.
Quake remains in prison awaiting Trial and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
His wife filed for divorce and stated "general indignities" as the grounds for the divorce.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
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