Ex-Campaign Aide Arrested in Murder of Former Arkansas State Senator — What We Know

Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, was charged on Monday with the murder of 57-year-old former Arkansas State Senator Linda Collins-Smith, who was found dead earlier this month outside of her home. O’Donnell was a friend and former campaign aide to the late state senator. Here’s what we know so far.

  1. Smith’s Body was Found Outside Her Home on June 4

Police discovered Collins-Smith’s body on June 4 outside her home in Pocahontas, Arkansas. According to Henry H. Boyce, the prosecuting attorney in the case, investigators could not identify the victim’s body for two days due to its “advanced state of decomposition.” Authorities were eventually able to identify the remains by referring to Collins-Smith’s dental records.

According to Collins-Smith’s former spokesman Ken Yang, neighbors reported hearing gunshots a day or two prior to the discovery of her body. Her remains were reportedly found wrapped in a blanket of some kind.

O’Donnell was arrested Friday in connection with Collins-Smith’s death and a judge on Monday “found probable cause […] to charge 48-year-old Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell of Pocahontas, Arkansas with capital murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with physical evidence.”

  1. O’Donnell and Smith Were Reportedly Close Friends

Yang also confirmed that O’Donnell had worked on Collins-Smith’s most recent campaign and described the victim and suspect as good friends.

“They traveled together and did grassroots stuff, even after Linda lost her re-election,” Yang said in an interview following O’Donnell’s arrest.

According to CBS Austin, O’Donnell even appeared as a corroborating witness in Collins-Smith’s divorce case against ex-husband and former circuit judge Phil Smith, according to court records.

Following O’Donnell’s arrest, Collins-Smith’s surviving family members released a statement about the personal relationship between the two, saying, “We are sickened and upset that someone so close to Linda would be involved in such a heartless crime.”

Police have not released any details regarding O’Donnell’s possible motive.

3. Collins-Smith Had Been Working as a Local Real Estate Agent

Collins-Smith served in both the Arkansas House and Senate. In 2017, she introduced a controversial transgender “bathroom bill” that would have required people to use the bathrooms that correspond to their assigned sex.

At the time of her death, Collins-Smith’s website described her as, “a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, and a community leader.”

“She and her family own and operate lodging businesses in Pocahontas. She has been a regional sales manager, a nationally recognized real estate agent, president of the Arkansas Lodging Association, and winner of statewide tourism awards,” the website bio continued. “She has served on the Arkansas Ethics Commission and the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Council.”

[Image via Jackson County]

Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.

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