Arkansas woman arrested in murder of former Arkansas State Sen. Linda Collins-Smith

An Arkansas woman has been arrested in connection with the murder of former state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, who was found dead in her home earlier this month.

State Police and Randolph County Sheriff’s deputies on Friday announced they detained 48-year-old Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell in the ex-lawmaker’s death. Criminal charges against the suspect are pending, according to a press release from the state police.

Officials said they would not release additional details as “the investigation is presently at a critical juncture,” adding no more information will be released “until authorities are confident it will not compromise the integrity of the criminal case.”

Collins-Smith was found dead on June 4 inside her home in Pocahontas, located about 130 miles northeast of the state’s capital, Little Rock. By the time authorities found her, the former senator’s body had already begun to decompose, the Arkansas Times reported.

While police have not confirmed the cause of death, her former press secretary, Ken Yang told KATV that neighbors heard gunshots days before Collins-Smith’s body was discovered, reportedly wrapped in some type of cloth or blanket.

Related: Vintage crime photos from the Daily News

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Vintage crime photos from the Daily News

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UNITED STATES – MARCH 03: Confessed Slayer Enraged. William Patrick Farrell screams as he lunges toward fotog taking his picture in van outside Police Headquarters. Police say that Farrell, 25, father of two, reenacted for them the slaying of NYU coed Ann Yarrow last month. Farrell, a patient at Bellevue Hosipital twice before, was ordered to Bellevue again. (Photo by Al Amy/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

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UNITED STATES – JANUARY 09: Theodore A. Clement in the back of a police paddy wagon after allegedly shooting a man during a poker game. (Photo by Al Amy/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – JANUARY 20: Isadore Strauss in jail cell at police headquarters after his arrest for murder and robbery in connection with Whittemore gang job. (Photo by Paul Levine/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 04: Abe (Kid Twist) Reles (center) in a police mug shot. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 2000: Liquor store owner Abraham Weissman views the body of stickupman, Otis Mims, whom he shot during an attempted robbery. (Photo by Gary Kagan/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

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UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 25: The body of Albert Anastasia – who ran Murder, Inc., a gang of hired killers for organized crime, in the late 1930s – lies on the barbershop floor at the Park Sheraton Hotel, Seventh Avenue and West 55th Street, soon after his murder by two gunmen at 10:20 A.M. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

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(Original Caption) When John Kerr, of 147 W. 84th Street, and Peter Macon, 490 Columbus Avenue, were being booked on a mugging charge at the West 68th St. Precinct today, photographer Phil Grietzer, New York Daily News photographer, drew a bead on the proceedings with his camera. He didn’t know the boys had a camera allergy. But he found out when the two, although handcuffed together, came charging at him. Another photographer who doesn’t suffer from buck fever, got this picture.

UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 16: Driver and bodyguard Thomas Bilotti lies on the street next to car after he and crime boss Paul Castellano were shot to death outside East Side steakhouse. (Photo by Thomas Monaster/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

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Yang on Friday released a statement on the family’s behalf on Facebook shortly after the arrest was announced.

“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,” it 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.”

When asked to clarify the relationship between Collins-Smith and O’Donnell, authorities told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette none of the investigators are “prepared to say with certainty that there is a connection at all and that this was not a chance encounter.”

Collins-Smith was first elected to the state senate in 2014 for District 19, which includes eastern Fulton County and all of Izard, Sharp, Independence and Randolph counties. She lost her re-election bid to James Sturch in 2018.

During her time in office, Collins-Smith proposed a controversial bill that would have required people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender specified on their birth certificate – similar to a North Carolina bill passed and then repealed in 2017 after widespread protests.

Prior to her time in the Senate, Collins-Smith served a term in the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013. While she was elected as a Democrat, she switched over the Republican Party just months after taking office.

“She was a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family,” Arkansas GOP tweeted earlier this month. “We are praying for her loved ones during this difficult time.”

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