Woman 'Close' to Former State Senator Linda Collins Arrested in Connection with Her Death

Rachel DeSantis

A friend who had helped slain former Arkansas State Senator Linda Collins with her most recent campaign has been arrested in connection with her death.

Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, of Pocahontas, Arkansas, is in custody with criminal charges pending, police said in a statement Friday.

The arrest comes weeks after Collins, 57, was found dead of a gunshot wound in her Pocahontas home on June 4.

“The investigation is presently at a critical juncture and no further information will be released at this hour until authorities are confident it will not compromise the integrity to the criminal case,” the statement read.

Collins, who formerly went by Collins-Smith, and O’Donnell were friends, and O’Donnell had helped Collins with her most recent campaign, her former communications director Ken Yang confirmed to PEOPLE.

Collins’ family issued a statement following news of the arrest, and expressed disgust that “someone so close” to the Republican was connected to the crime.

RELATED: Former State Senator Linda Collins’ Family Shares Their Anguish a Week After She Was Shot and Killed

“This evening our family received news that an arrest was made in connection to the ongoing investigation. We are sickened and upset that someone so close to Linda, would be involved in such a terrible, heartless crime,” the statement read.

“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. We would like to thank everyone for the continued prayers and thoughts for our family during this difficult time.”

It is unclear if O’Donnell has retained an attorney who could comment on her behalf.

RELATED: Former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith Found Dead, Death Being Investigated as a Possible Murder

Yang said Collins’ neighbors had heard several gunshots a day or two before her body was discovered, wrapped in some sort of blanket, according to KATV.

Her body had reportedly already started decomposing upon its discovery, making it difficult to identify her.

In a statement issued a week after her death, Collins’ family praised the late politician as someone always willing to listen and help others, regardless of political affiliation.

“We are surprised, upset, angered, and saddened by this event and are at a loss for words in describing the feelings and emotions that we are currently going through,” Collins’ family wrote. “Linda would want all of us to be strong for her during this trying time.”

“Let us honor her memory, of all the wonderful things she said and did for so many people, regardless of political views or otherwise,” they added. “She was always there to listen and to try to help where she could. She would always go above and beyond for people in need.”

She is survived by son Butch Smith, daughter Heather Tate Williams and three grandchildren, according to her obituary.

Her funeral took place Saturday morning at the Sutton Free Will Baptist Church, and was followed by a private family burial.

Collins, who switched from the Democratic to the Republican party in 2011, served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2010 to 2012 and represented Randolph and Sharp counties (District 80), according to her website.

She also served as a former member of the Arkansas State Senate, where she represented District 19 after being first elected in 2014. In the primary on May 22, 2018, Collins was defeated.

In addition to her roles in the Senate and House, the politician also served on several committees, including Revenue and Taxation; City, County, and Local; and Energy, and was the Arkansas House Chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council.

According to her Twitter bio, Collins identified as a “Christian Conservative; Pro-Life, Business, Family, Guns, Veterans, Better Education & Patriot.”

Just two days after her passing, another former Republican state senator, Jonathan Nichols, was found dead in his Norman, Oklahoma, home from an apparent gunshot wound.