An Arkansas farmer has been sentenced to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of nurse Sydney Sutherland.
Quake Lewellyn, 29, reversed his not guilty plea at a court appearance on Friday after entering a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty.
Prosecutors dismissed charges of kidnapping and abuse of a corpse.
Ms Sutherland, 25, vanished in August 2020 while out jogging near Newport, Arkansas.
After her disappearance, Lewellyn joined volunteers searching for Ms Sutherland and became a member of a Facebook group dedicated to finding her.
She was found two days after her disappearance in a shallow grave not far from his residence.
He was arrested a few days later, and claimed he had run her over with his truck, and then raped her and buried her body, according to an affidavit.
Law enforcement said they knew each other, but didn’t disclose any further details.
At the court appearance in Jackson County on Friday, the victim’s mother Maggie Sutherland, told Lewellyn to look at her as she read out an impact statement.
“Look at me in the eyes,” she said.
“You treated her like nothing but she was everything to me. You didn’t just kill Sydney that day, something in me died, too,” she said.
“She was not yours to take.”
“The hands you hugged me with are the same hands you killed her with,” she said, referring to an interaction they had while searching for Ms Sutherland.
Sam Sutherland, Sydney Sutherland’s brother, had his statement read out by a support person, according to Kark.com.
“Every night has been sleepless, hoping it’s a bad dream,” he said. “I wish, hope and pray that God has absolutely no mercy on your soul.”
Sydney’s father, Dion Sutherland, called Lewellyn “a 300-pound coward that hit my 100-pound daughter with a 3,000-pound truck.”
After the court hearing, Lewellyn’s attorney Bill James said: “Obviously my client wanted to accept responsibility for what he had done.
“The family of Mrs Sutherland had offered this mercy and we took it. We are certainly thankful for that. It just was the right thing to do for Quake and for everybody involved.”