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story.lead_photo.caption Rebecca O'Donnell is escorted through the Randolph County courthouse after a hearing Tuesday. - Photo by John Moritz

5:34 p.m.

The woman accused in a former Arkansas senator's death pleaded innocent at her arraignment on Tuesday.

Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, entered a plea of not guilty at the hearing, her attorneys confirmed.

O'Donnell was arrested in former state Sen. Linda Collins' death in June.

4:23 p.m.

Security footage from inside former Arkansas Sen. Linda Collins’ home, recorded on the last day she was seen alive, shows the suspect in her killing removing cameras from the residence, authorities said in an affidavit.

A judge on Tuesday lifted an order that had prevented the release of the affidavit. Two judges who had presided over preliminary matters in the homicide case, Tom Garner and Harold Erwin, issued the June order to seal the records that retired Judge David Goodson lifted Tuesday.

Officials on Tuesday released a redacted version of the affidavit that also revealed Collins was stabbed multiple times.

In the affidavit, authorities said Collins’ son, Butch Smith, called the Randolph County 911 dispatch center at about 5:30 p.m. from his mother’s home on June 4. The man said he and his grandfather, Benny Collins, found the badly decayed body of a woman wrapped in a blanket under a tarp in the residence’s driveway.

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Rebecca O'Donnell affidavit

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Authorities said investigators determined the corpse was moved from inside the home to the tarp.

The state Crime Lab identified the body as belonging to Collins, and determined that she died of multiple stab wounds.

Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, was arrested in Collins' slaying on June 12 while she was on the way to the former senator's visitation.

Recovered video, dated May 28, showed O’Donnell removing security cameras from inside the home, the affidavit states.

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against O’Donnell, a former campaign aide and close friend of Collins, Third Judicial Circuit District Attorney Henry Boyce said Tuesday.

– Josh Snyder

3:07 p.m.

An order sealing all records related to the murder of a former lawmaker was lifted Tuesday, as the woman arrested in the case made her second appearance in court.

Retired Judge David Goodson, on special orders to hear the case, said he had agreed to lift the order Tuesday so that criminal information may be released about what led police to arrest Rebecca O’Donnell in the death of former state Sen. Linda Collins.

Goodson said that the court record, with some exceptions, should be released later Tuesday.

Prosecutors announced their plans to seek the death penalty.

The 48-year-old woman appeared clad in an orange jumpsuit. She stood between her attorneys as Judge Goodson asked if she understood the charges against her, to which she replied “yes.”

– John Moritz

10:13 a.m.

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a Randolph County woman arrested last month in connection with the killing of former state Sen. Linda Collins, Third Judicial Circuit District Attorney Henry Boyce said Tuesday.

Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell, 48, has an arraignment scheduled Tuesday afternoon on charges of capital murder, abuse of a corpse and hindering physical evidence. Boyce told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that prosecutors will formally announce their plans to seek the state's highest punishment at the hearing.

There are currently no women on death row in Arkansas.

Authorities haven't divulged what led police to arrest O'Donnell, a friend and former campaign aide to Collins.

The former senator's body was found at her home in Pocahontas on June 4. A local judge's order to seal the case days later has prevented police and prosecutors from publicly releasing details about the murder, including the cause of death.

The local judge later recused from the case. Collins' ex-husband was a judge who served on the same circuit, and a new judge, David Goodson, has been assigned to the case.

The Democrat-Gazette wrote a letter to Goodson earlier this month requesting that the order to seal be lifted in light of rumors and innuendo about the case that have circulated online.

Read Wednesday's Democrat-Gazette for full details.

– John Moritz

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Archived Comments

  • noname2u
    July 30, 2019 at 10:36 a.m.

    Stop sitting on the story, prosecutor. You want to announce that you are seeking the death penalty? Give the public information. I've never seen such a show made out of a murder. This woman isn't any more special than anyone else who has been murdered...except in the minds of her political allies.

  • GOHOGS19
    July 30, 2019 at 10:40 a.m.

    the right to a clean investigation and a fair trial is more important than your need for information noname

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 30, 2019 at 11:11 a.m.

    why not just 7 years? like the killer of that baby in the other article. smfh

  • hah406
    July 30, 2019 at 11:22 a.m.

    Given that so little information has been released in this case, I don't know if that is appropriate or not. I am not saying I need more information, just that I wouldn't make a judgment about seeking the death penalty without it.

  • AnonymousinAR
    July 30, 2019 at 11:25 a.m.

    Doesn't the prosecutors public comment violate the gag order?

  • AuntPetunia
    July 30, 2019 at 11:26 a.m.

    I just can’t believe how fast this is going. And the lack of available info and the irregularities in the gag order. Sounds like the Lights Are Out In Arkansas

  • Jfish
    July 30, 2019 at 12:07 p.m.

    I seriously doubt that the State would ever execute a woman in this day and age. I mean look at the case in Searcy back in 2015 when Jeffrey Clifton murdered his 2-year-old son, Malik Drummond. Clifton only got 40 years and the girlfriend, Lesley Marcotte, who obstructed the investigation, only spent a few weeks in jail before she was released. This was a former college basketball player beating a helpless child to death and a girlfriend who would not even report it to the authorities. Does it get any more gruesome than that?

  • MatsLaw
    July 30, 2019 at 12:45 p.m.

    It's weird that they're talking about the death penalty when the accused is not a person of color, and is a woman.

  • CRAWFORDR
    July 30, 2019 at 1:34 p.m.

    Looks to me like they’re squeezing her for more information, I just can’t see her having done this alone. Rapping it up and taking it outside seems like a two person job. I suspect there will be some surprises on this.

  • RP57
    July 30, 2019 at 2:01 p.m.

    Why is everyone complaining about the lack of info, gag order, etc.? She's not going to get tried in the court of public opinion.

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