Woman charged in former Arkansas lawmaker’s death faces new charges


In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, speaks at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty against Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, charged with killing former lawmaker Collins-Smith, who was found dead June 4, 2019 outside her own home. Prosecutor Henry Boyce on Tuesday, July 30 told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette his office would formally announce its plans at an arraignment and plea hearing for O’Donnell, who’s been charged with capital murder. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A woman charged with killing a former Arkansas state lawmaker faced new charges Tuesday alleging that she asked fellow inmates to kill the victim’s ex-husband.

Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, who has pleaded not guilty to capital murder in the killing of former state Sen. Linda Collins, was charged with two counts of criminal solicitation to commit capital murder and two counts of criminal solicitation to commit tampering with physical evidence.

Four inmates told State Police that O’Donnell had talked with them about killing Collins’ ex-husband, Phil Smith, and arranging to have the death look like suicide, according to an affidavit filed Tuesday. O’Donnell also talked with inmates about blowing up her vehicle, which is being held at the Randolph County jail, “to destroy any evidence that may be in the vehicle,” the affidavit states.

One inmate said O’Donnell “told her that Phil Smith needed to be killed and a ‘suicide note’ was to be left so the ‘charges would be dropped off her,’” according to the affidavit. Three inmates said O’Donnell told them they could take a bag of gold and silver at Phil Smith’s home as payment. Another inmate gave the investigator handwritten “suicide notes” she said O’Donnell had written, the affidavit said.

Two inmates said O’Donnell also sought the killing of the prosecutor who had been handling her case, while another said she wanted Smith’s current wife killed to make it look like she was in the process of leaving Smith, according to the affidavit. That prosecutor unexpectedly recused himself from the case late last year. One inmate told investigators O’Donnell also wanted her to kill a judge who had initially presided over her case before recusing last summer.

Lee Short, O’Donnell’s attorney, denied the claims and questioned whether the inmates were accusing his client in the hopes of striking deals in their own cases.

“This happens so incredibly often on homicide cases with any level of publicity,” he said.

A hearing date had not been set yet for O’Donnell on the new charges.

Collins, who went by Collins-Smith in the Legislature, was found dead June 4 outside her home in Pocahontas, which is about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock. O’Donnell is scheduled to go to trial in October. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty.

Police have said Collins was stabbed to death and O’Donnell was captured on video removing security cameras inside the former lawmaker’s home.

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