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The family of slain former lawmaker Linda Collins on Monday defended the case brought against the woman accused in the killing, after successive weeks saw the judge and lead prosecutor withdraw from the proceedings.

Collins' friend and former campaign aide, Rebecca O'Donnell, was arrested in June and charged with capital murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence in Collins' death. She has pleaded innocent.

Over the course of six months, the case has been marked by a turnover in judges and a proliferation in unsubstantiated theories about the murder in online forums.

Collins' family has previously responded to online and media speculation by requesting respect for the investigation.

The family's designated spokesman, Ken Yang, spoke out again Monday in response to the recent departures from the case.

Just before Thanksgiving, retired Circuit Judge David Goodson asked to quit his special assignment to the case. He was replaced by Circuit Judge John Fogleman, who became the fourth judge to preside over the case since it began. The first two judges in the case recused because they sat on the same bench as Collins' ex-husband, Philip Smith.

A week after Goodson stepped aside, the prosecuting attorney, Henry Boyce, also asked to be replaced. Neither Boyce nor Goodson said why they asked to withdraw from the case.

"We want to stress that the case brought by the State against the woman accused is strong, regardless of those who have recused from this case," read the statement from Yang, the Collins family spokesman.

"Ultimately, we want the focus of this case to remain on bringing justice to Linda," the statement continued. "Our hope is that Judge Fogleman will take the actions necessary to set this case back on track, and make it an urgent priority to provide transparency to the public in this case. Thank you all for your continued thoughts, prayers, and privacy to our family as the case moves forward."

The case against O'Donnell is scheduled to go to trial next year. She is being held without bond in the Jackson County jail.

Bob McMahon, the Arkansas prosecutor coordinator, said Monday that he had yet to find an attorney to replace Boyce. The replacement would not be from within Boyce's office, he added.

Boyce did not return calls seeking comment on Monday.

O'Donnell's defense attorney, Lee Short, said Monday that he had not requested that either Boyce or Goodson be removed from the case.

"It may be that they know things about themselves or have concerns that we don't have," Short said.

Before departing the case, Boyce had not described a motive for the killing. Goodson did, however, approve in July the release of a redacted affidavit that said O'Donnell was filmed removing security cameras from Collins' house on the day the former senator was last seen alive.

Boyce had stated that he planned to seek the death penalty in the case.

The decision of whether to continue pursuing that punishment will be up to the next prosecutor assigned to the case.

Metro on 12/10/2019

Print Headline: Family of slain ex-lawmaker defends case


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