Photo – In this Jan. 28, 2015, file photo, Sen. Linda Collins, R-Pocahontas, speaks at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock. Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell on Thursday pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Collins. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)
POCAHONTAS, Ark. (AP) – An Arkansas woman pleaded guilty Thursday to killing a former state lawmaker who was found dead from multiple stab wounds outside her home last year.
Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in the death of former Arkansas state Sen. Linda Collins. Collins, who went by Collins-Smith in the Legislature, was found dead on June 4, 2019, outside her home in Pocahontas.
O’Donnell also pleaded no contest to two counts of criminal solicitation in a separate case where she was charged with asking fellow inmates to kill Collins’ ex-husband and others while she was in jail.
She was sentenced to 50 years in prison under a deal with prosecutors.
O’Donnell was originally charged with capital murder and prosecutors last year said they planned to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors in April said O’Donnell killed Collins for money and to avoid arrest.
O’Donnell worked on Collins’ unsuccessful reelection campaign in 2018 and was a witness in the former lawmaker’s divorce proceedings. Collins divorced retired Circuit Judge Philip Smith in 2018.
Investigators determined that Collins was last seen alive on May 28, 2019. Video footage from Collins’ security system showed O’Donnell removing security cameras from inside the former lawmaker’s residence that day, investigators said.
Collins served one term in the state House and was originally elected as a Democrat in 2010. She switched parties and became a Republican in 2011, a year before the GOP won control of both chambers of the Legislature. She was elected to the state Senate in 2014 and was one of the most conservative lawmakers in the majority-GOP chamber. The senate district includes eastern Fulton County and all of Izard, Sharp, Independence and Randolph counties. She lost her re-election bid in 2018.
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