Family of slain ex-Arkansas lawmaker “sickened” by arrest

Linda Collins Smith

FILE – In this Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, file photo, Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, listens to testimony at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Authorities on Friday, June 14, 2019, said they’ve arrested an Arkansas woman in connection with the killing of former state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, who was found dead outside her own home, on June 4. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

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The family of a former Arkansas state senator who was found dead outside of her home says they are “sickened and upset” by the thought that one of her friends could have been involved in her killing.

Authorities on Friday announced the arrest of 48-year-old Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, of Pocahontas, in connection with the killing of 57-year-old Linda Collins, whose body was found June 4 outside her home in Pocahontas, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock.

It was not clear where O’Donnell was being held on Saturday, but jail records in Randolph County, where Pocahontas is located, do not list her as an inmate. In neighboring Lawrence County, a woman who answered the phone but declined to give her name said Saturday that “we’re not going to release any of that” information when asked about O’Donnell. The woman referred questions to Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Yates and jail administrator Debbie Burleson, who didn’t immediately reply to phone messages seeking comment.

State police spokesman Bill Sadler said in an email Saturday that no additional information is expected until Monday or Tuesday.

Authorities haven’t said why they suspect O’Donnell had a role in Collins’ killing. At a news conference Friday night, RandolphCounty Sheriff Kevin Bell said the investigation was at a “critical juncture and no further information will be released at this time until we are confident it will not compromise the integrity of the criminal investigation.”

Phone calls Saturday to numbers listed as O’Donnell’s rang unanswered or messages weren’t returned.

Police said criminal charges are pending, but didn’t say what the charges may be or whether they were seeking any other possible suspects in the death of Collins, who went by Collins-Smith when she was in the Legislature.

“There is a probable cause hearing on Monday in regards to Becky O’Donnell,” Collins’ former communications director, Ken Yang, said Saturday. He said the family has had no contact with police since being informed of O’Donnell’s arrest.

Collins’ family issued a statement through Yang in which they said they are “sickened and upset that someone so close to Linda, would be involved in such a terrible, heartless crime. The family is very confident that the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department and the Arkansas State Police will continue to work diligently to bring justice to this case.”

Yang said Collins and O’Donnell, who goes by Becky, were friends.

“Becky had worked to help Linda in her last Senate election,” in which Collins was defeated in a re-election bid. “I had met her (O’Donnell) a couple of times, but only in passing.”

Collins’ funeral was held Saturday morning in Pocahontas and was followed by a private burial service attended only by family, Yang said.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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