Ex-Arkansas state senator’s campaign staffer, 'friend' charged in politician’s murder

The former campaign staffer and “friend” suspected in the slaying of ex-Arkansas state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith was charged Monday with capital murder -- potentially putting the death penalty in play if she's convicted.

Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, was also charged Monday with abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence and ordered held without bond. She was arrested Friday in connection with Collins-Smith’s death.

The former 57-year-old lawmaker was found dead outside her own home in Pocahontas, around 130 miles northeast of Little Rock, on June 4.

But beyond those basic facts, most elements of the case remain undisclosed by authorities. It's not clear when or how officials believe she died or what O'Donnell's motive may have been. Further clouding the case, a judge sided with prosecutors and ordered police documents sealed. Prosecutors had argued the files could prejudice public opinion prior to a trial and also stressed the release of the information at the current time could harm the ongoing investigation into Collins-Smith's death.


A former Collins-Smith spokesperson described the relationship between the victim and O’Donnell as that of two friends. Court documents revealed O’Donnell was a witness in Collins-Smith's divorce proceedings from retired Circuit Judge Philip Smith last year.

In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, speaks at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark.  (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

Robin Emis, an attorney for Collins during her divorce, said she didn't believe O'Donnell was capable of the crime and described the woman as a close confidante of the ex-lawmaker.

"She treated Linda as if she was either her friend or her mother," Emis said. "She just watched over her and protected her to a degree that was touching.”

Tim Loggains, O'Donnell's fiancé, agreed with Emis' take, adding both he and O’Donnell “loved Linda and tirelessly gave our time and energy to support her, in every way.”

A former Collins-Smith spokesperson described the relationship between the victim (left) and O’Donnell (right) is that of two friends. (Facebook)

"Although Becky and I are devastated by the current accusations, we are trying to trust the judicial process and we hope that every possible suspect is being looked into," Loggains said in a statement. "A lot of hurtful things are being printed and we ask that people please show us mercy while the police investigate every possibility."


Collins, elected as a Democrat in 2010, served one term in the state House. She changed parties and became a Republican in 2011 -- the year before the GOP won control of both chambers of the Legislature.

She was elected to the state Senate in 2014 and became known as one of the most conservative senators in the majority-GOP chamber. Last year, she lost her primary, sealing her exit for public office.

Fox News' Brie Stimson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.