A close friend of a former Arkansas senator found dead earlier this month has been accused of killing her.
Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell, 48, appeared in court Monday to face charges of capital murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence in the death of Linda Collins-Smith, whose decomposing body was discovered on June 4. O'Donnell was arrested on Friday.
O'Donnell was ordered held without bond during her appearance at the Randolph County circuit court on Monday, according to CBS affiliate KTVH-TV of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Further details of the murder — including when and how Collins-Smith was killed — are not currently available, as judge Harold Erwin has sealed the investigative files pertaining to the case.
Henry Boyce, the prosecuting attorney for the Third Judicial District, explained the judge's decision in a statement handed out to press.
“The biggest threat to the successful prosecution of any criminal case is the premature release of information,” said Boyce, according to KTVH-TV. “It has the tendency, as with this case, to become distorted and ultimately has the effect of prejudicing the potential jurors who may eventually be chosen to hear the case at trial.”
Arkansas state police have said that the investigation is at a "critical juncture" and that no further information would be released "until authorities are confident it will not compromise the integrity of the criminal case," according to CBS News.
O'Donnell appeared in handcuffs wearing a checkered black-and-gray jail uniform and a bullet proof vest in court. She filed an affidavit of indigency and did not speak during the appearance. The process of finding her a court-appointed lawyer has already begun.
When Collin-Smith's body was found outside her home in Pocahontas, Arkansas earlier this month, it had been in an advanced state of decomposition. It took experts several days to confirm her identification through dental records.
Ken Yang, a former communications director for Collins, said that O'Donnell and Collins had campaigned together and described the duo as "good friends."
"They traveled together and did grassroots stuff, even after Linda lost her re-election," Yang told CBS News.
Family members of Collins-Smith have declined comment but have released a statement that they "are sickened and upset that someone so close to Linda would be involved in such a heartless crime," according to CBS News.
Robin Emis, an attorney for Collins during her divorce, was stunned by the accusations made against O'Donnell.
“She treated Linda as if she was either her friend or her mother. She just watched over her and protected her to a degree that was touching,” Emis said, according to the Associated Press.
Tim Loggains, O’Donnell’s fiancé, maintained his partner’s innocence.
“Both [of us] loved Linda and tirelessly gave our time and energy to support her, in every way,” Loggains said in a statement. “Although Becky and I are devastated by the current accusations, we are trying to trust the judicial process and we hope that every possible suspect is being looked into. A lot of hurtful things are being printed and we ask that people please show us mercy while the police investigate every possibility.”
Collins-Smith had been elected as a Republican in 2011 but had lost her re-election bid in 2018, according to The New York Post.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.