Prosecutors to seek death penalty for suspect in shooting death of former Arkansas senator

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BCFC/iStock(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) -- Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the woman accused in the murder of former Arkansas Sen. Linda Collins-Smith.

Collins-Smith was found dead at her home in Pocahontas, some 145 miles northeast of Little Rock, on June 4, according to authorities. The suspect, 48-year-old Pocahontas resident Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, was arrested about a week and a half later.

O’Donnell, once an aide to Collins-Smith and an employee of the former senator's business, is being held without bond on charges of capital murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence.

It was not immediately clear from available public records what prompted police to charge O'Donnell with abuse of a corpse. In an unusual move for a criminal proceeding, the judge in the case issued a gag order barring prosecutors and defense attorneys from discussing specific details of the case.

Collins-Smith's son, Butch Smith, called police on the afternoon of June 4 to report that he and his grandfather, Benny Collins, were searching for his mother at her home because they hadn't heard from her, according to O'Donnell's arrest affidavit. She was last seen alive on May 28.

Smith then stated that he found a body wrapped in a blanket under a tarp in the driveway, which he believed to be his mother's.

The condition of Collins-Smith's body "prevented any immediate positive identification," Randolph County Sheriff Kevin Bell told reporters in June.

An autopsy determined that Collins-Smith died of multiple stab wounds, according to the affidavit. In addition, her body had been moved from inside the home to the driveway and was in an "advanced state of decomposition" by the time it was found.

Initial reports also stated that Collins-Smith had been shot and that neighbors reported hearing gunshots in the days before her body was discovered.

Surveillance video also allegedly showed O'Donnell removing security cameras inside the residence, the document states.

During her arraignment Tuesday, O'Donnell acknowledged that she understood the charges, and her attorney entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

Prosecutors announced during the hearing that they plan on seeking capital punishment for Collins-Smith's murder.

After the 25-minute hearing concluded, O'Donnell began to cry as she looked back at her daughters, who were sitting in the front row. She then mouthed "I love you" before she was led out of the courtroom.

Additional details on the crime have not been released, and the judge has placed a gag order on the attorneys about speaking about specifics on the case, the prosecutor and one of O'Donnell's defense attorneys told reporters outside of the courthouse.

A trial date has not yet been set.

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