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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, speaks at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

The blog of the Arkansas Times on Friday posted -- and then retracted -- information from an alleged affidavit in the tightly sealed murder investigation of former state Sen. Linda Collins.

The post on the Times' website Friday afternoon attributed the release of previously undisclosed information -- including a cause of death -- to Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce of the 3rd Judicial Circuit.

But Boyce then issued a press release later Friday denying having released documents or other information to the Times.

The article was later taken off the Times' website and replaced with a short post explaining that the report had been released in error.

"We regret the mistake," the Times website read shortly before 5 p.m.

Information about the death of the former Republican lawmaker has been kept under a strict judicial seal at Boyce's request since Collins' body was discovered at her Randolph County home June 4.

A former campaign aide and friend to the senator, Rebecca O'Donnell, was arrested June 14 and charged with capital murder, abuse of a corpse and hindering physical evidence. However, neither police nor prosecutors have said what evidence led to O'Donnell's arrest, nor have they explained a motive for the crime.

The lack of public information in the case has allowed bloggers and social media accounts to spread unverified and false information without rebuttal from official sources.

The Times article about the affidavit was by Senior Editor Max Brantley, who did not respond to an email Friday afternoon. Boyce, the prosecutor, did not return a call left at his office.

The Times has posted more than a dozen articles mentioning the case and investigation, including details from public court records in Collins' divorce from her ex-husband, retired Judge Philip Smith. (Collins went by the surname Collins-Smith while in the Legislature.)

Brantley's wife, retired Circuit Judge Ellen Brantley, served as a specially appointed judge over the divorce, a point Max Brantley has disclosed in his articles.

Earlier this week, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sent a letter to David Goodson, the specially appointed judge overseeing the Collins homicide case, asking him to rescind the order sealing all records in the case in order to provide the public with accurate information. The order was issued by Circuit Judge Harold Erwin, who has since recused.

Goodson has not acknowledged receipt of the letter, and did not answer a phone call Friday afternoon.

Lee Short, one of O'Donnell's attorneys, said in a phone call Friday that he had reviewed an affidavit in the case, but declined to say more, citing the earlier circuit court order to seal records.

Collins' family has not seen a copy of the affidavit, according to Ken Yang, a spokesman for the family. Yang said the family did not have additional comment.

A hearing for the case is scheduled for July 30.

Metro on 07/13/2019

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Comments

  • adrink
    July 13, 2019 at 8:04 a.m.

    The prosecutor needs to have a very good story ready when things are made public. Sealing this case at such an early point makes it look like he is protecting someone. If he is not protecting someone, he has created massive speculation about the involvement of that one particular someone who has not been arrested.

  • GeneralMac
    July 13, 2019 at 9:08 a.m.

    ADRINK..........YES indeed !

  • Packman
    July 13, 2019 at 10:03 a.m.

    The Arkansas Times? Worthless at teats on a boar hog.

  • RBBrittain
    July 13, 2019 at 10:20 a.m.

    Though the Times is often useful, the potential conflict of interest in this case between Ellen Brantley's involvement in the divorce proceedings and Max Brantley's role as a reporter and (now mainly) blogger is problematic. That said, I'm glad the ADG *finally* asked the judge to lift the gag order; until that order is lifted speculation will inevitably run wild, leading to questions about why certain people were not arrested (there's more than one, ADRINK) and inevitable allegations of coverups, conspiracy theories, etc.

  • FollowDaMoney
    July 13, 2019 at 10:22 a.m.

    I can remember when I was younger I'd eagerly await the Times arrival on Thursday afternoons. It was usually packed full of useful, well written stories about politics and local affairs. Good humor, definitely slanted, but still newsworthy. Today, they've handed the reins to a bunch of kids who want to run an entertainment blog. They tried to turn the AT into the old Localist, which failed for a reason. There is no longer a source for news that doesnt make the DEM GAZ other than a few local papers and blogs. So it's no wonder that's where people get their info. Shame the AT moved away from people like Mara Leverett who actually did research and wrote relevant stories. Now it's just liner for the cat box.

  • MaxCady
    July 13, 2019 at 10:55 a.m.

    I thought the whole point of the internet was to throw erroneous sh*t against a wall to see what would stick.

  • Skeptic1
    July 13, 2019 at 11:02 a.m.

    Someone at the local Arkansas State Police in Pocahontas has been leaking false information from day 1, why? The million dollar question is why is Max Brantley reporting on this case at all considering his wife was the judge in the divorce that is under appeal. Do a google search on the negative articles Max Brantley wrote about Senator Collins-Smith. Something smells.

  • Spankthemonkey
    July 13, 2019 at 12:05 p.m.

    Max, you done done it again!

  • LR1955
    July 13, 2019 at 12:46 p.m.

    Drama!

  • mozarky2
    July 13, 2019 at 12:52 p.m.

    Is the Times still free in LR?

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