Former Arkansas State Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, a Republican, was shot and killed in early June. Her body was discovered on June 4. Her death was immediately treated as “suspicious” and investigated as a homicide. Now, an arrest has been made in relation to her death.
Fox News reported that former campaign staffer Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, had been identified as the suspect. Arkansas State Police told the outlet criminal charges were pending, but wouldn’t say whether other suspects had been identified or were being sought.
KTHV-TV reported O’Donnell’s connection to Collins-Smith’s last campaign. Ken Yang, former communications director for Collins-Smith, told the outlet that O’Donnell had worked on the former state senator's last campaign and that the two were friends.
NBC-affiliate KARK published a statement from Collins-Smith’s family released Friday evening:
This evening, our family received the 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 family is 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.
No motive has been suggested, and a photo of the two women smiling together has been making the rounds online. KARK reported that O’Donnell made the photo her profile picture “days after the homicide.”
Arkansas police have told multiple outlets that the investigation is still ongoing and no further information is available.
The Daily Wire previously reported that Collins-Smith served one term in the Arkansas state senate. She was elected in 2014 but primaried in 2018 and lost. Still, the Arkansas Republican Party and Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a fellow Republican, remembered her fondly.
“It's an incredible loss of a human life who's served the public and an office and that has continued to be engaged in public affairs but she's also a family person and it's just a great loss. So, we express our sympathies there and we're awaiting more details in the state police investigation," Hutchinson told “KARK 4 Today” after Collins-Smith’s death.
The Arkansas GOP offered its own condolences on Twitter:
Today, we learned of the untimely death of former Senator Linda Collins Smith. She was a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family. We are praying for her loved ones during this difficult time.
The day after Collins-Smith was discovered, another former Republican state senator — Jonathan Nichols of Oklahoma — was also discovered dead from a gunshot wound.
The deaths were completely unrelated and there is no new information on the events surrounding Nichols’ death.