Death penalty sought for woman accused of killing ex-senator

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Prosecutors said Tuesday they plan to seek the death penalty against a woman charged in the killing of a former Arkansas lawmaker who investigators say was found dead from multiple stab wounds outside her home.

An arrest affidavit for Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell released Tuesday said O'Donnell was caught on video removing security cameras from inside the home of former state Sen. Linda Collins the last day Collins was seen alive.

O'Donnell has been charged with capital murder in the death of Collins, who went by Collins-Smith in the Legislature. She was found dead June 4 outside her home in Pocahontas, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock. O'Donnell also faces abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence charges.

She pleaded not guilty Tuesday at a hearing in Pocahontas.

O'Donnell worked on Collins' unsuccessful re-election campaign last year and was a witness in the former lawmaker's divorce proceedings. Collins divorced retired Circuit Judge Philip Smith last year.

Prosecutors announced their plans to seek the death penalty Tuesday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported . There are currently no women on death row in Arkansas.

The redacted arrest affidavit was released after Judge David Goodson lifted an order sealing documents and statements obtained by police during the investigation. The affidavit said Collins' son and father found her body wrapped in a blanket under a tarp in her driveway.

Investigators determined that Collins was last seen alive on May 28. Video footage from Collins' security system showed O'Donnell removing security cameras from inside the former lawmaker's residence that day, according to the affidavit.

Tim Loggains, O'Donnell's fiancé, has proclaimed her innocence.

"I've been deeply touched by people constantly reaching out to express their belief in Becky's innocence," he said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. "This situation, and the way this case is being handled, is bigger than us so we are turning it over to God."

Collins served one term in the state House and was originally elected as a Democrat in 2010. But she switched 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 was one of the most conservative lawmakers in the majority-GOP chamber.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,