Former Campaign Staffer Arrested in Connection With Ex-Arkansas State Senator’s Death: Reports

June 15, 2019 Updated: June 15, 2019

Police have arrested a suspect in connection to the shooting death of former Arkansas State Senator Linda Collins-Smith, according to reports.

Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, is currently being held in police custody, while criminal charges are pending, reported Fox 16.

Arkansas State Police have not released any details about the arrests and it is not clear whether they are seeking any further suspects in the case.

Collins-Smith, 57, was found shot dead and wrapped up in a blanket inside of her home in Randolph County on June 4, KAIT reported. At the time, her former press secretary, Ken Yang, told KATV that neighbors reportedly heard gunshots a day or two before the body was found.

Authorities have not released the connection between O’Donnell and Collins-Smith but, according to Yang, O’Donnell had worked on the former state senator’s most recent campaign and the pair were friends, reported KTHV-TV.

Police said the investigation is currently ongoing and they would not release further details in order to not comprise the integrity of the case.

Collins-Smith’s family has released a statement in reaction to the arrest.

“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 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,” the statement said.

Collins-Smith, who was a Democrat who later changed to the Republican party, served in the state House of Representatives from 2010 before becoming a state senator. She was defeated in the 2018 election.

According to her official website, Collins-Smith was a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, and a community leader.

“She is a tireless advocate for conservative principles and traditional values. She believes in limited government, lower taxes, and ending burdensome regulations. She stands for a child’s right to life from conception, for religious freedom, for our Second Amendment rights, for individual liberty, and for greater personal responsibility,” it states.

“She is a lifetime member of the NRA and founding member of the Friends of the NRA in Hardy. Linda grew up in the rural Arkansas Ozarks. She knows what it is like to carry water from the spring and cut her own firewood. Her background taught her the value of hard work, and the blessing of living in a land where everyone, from the poor country girl to the inner city street kid, had the opportunity to achieve their dreams through industry and determination. She has dedicated herself to the cause of restoring those opportunities to our children and grandchildren.”

Second Former State Senator Found Shot Dead

Former Republican state Sen. Jonathan Nichols, 53, was found shot dead in his home in Norman, Oklahoma, just a day after Collins-Smith’s body was discovered, reported The Oklahoman, citing police sources.

Authorities said Nichols was found after police responded to a property at the 3900 block of Annalane Drive around 8:44 p.m. on June 5. They are now working with the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause of death, reported NY Daily News.

Nichols was elected as a senator from 2000 to 2012. He was serving as a policy adviser to House Speaker Charles McCall when he died.

“I am shocked and incredibly saddened to learn that Jonathan has passed away,” McCall said in a statement to The Oklahoman. “He was a valuable member of my staff and a friend. Jonathan was a very proud man, but he served humbly.”

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