Judge finds probable cause to charge female staffer of beloved senator with murder and abusing corpse: Report

A supposed friend of a former Arkansas state senator found dead on June 4 has been charged with murder.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that that 48-year-old Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell is facing several felony charges, including capital murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence, in connection with the death of Linda Collins-Smith (pictured left), a former Arkansas State Senator. The suspect was formally charged during a Monday morning court hearing at the Randolph County Courthouse in Pocahontas.

Collins-Smith was found dead outside her home in Pocahontas on June 4. Her body was in an “advanced state of decomposition,” according to prosecuting attorney Henry Boyce. It took a few days for officials to identify Collins-Smith. Investigators had to use dental records to make a positive identity.

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The motive and the cause of death remain unclear. As CrimeOnline previously reported, O’Donnell was a former communications director for the ex-senator.

Witnesses told authorities they heard gunshots in the area around two days before the former senator’s body was discovered. The suspect was arrested shortly after, during a traffic stop.

“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 of the criminal case,” Arkansas State Police said in the news release.

The story is developing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

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[Feature Photo: Linda Collins-Smith via AP/Danny Johnston, File]