POCAHONTAS — Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell admitted Thursday to killing former state senator Linda Collins and hiding her body as part of a plea agreement that handed her 50 years in prison.
O’Donnell, 49, was known as a close friend and campaign aide to Collins, a conservative politician who served several terms in the Legislature from Northeast Arkansas. She was arrested less than two weeks after Collins’ body was found in her backyard in June 2019.
“I intentionally killed her,” O’Donnell told Judge John Fogleman during a hearing Thursday, after being asked to say what she did.
Prosecutors have not explained a detailed motive for Collins’ murder, other than saying in a court filing that they believed the crime was committed over money. O’Donnell did not further explain why she killed Collins in court on Thursday.
Documents that have been under seal in the case for over a year will be redacted and released to the public within the next week, Fogleman said.
Following her arrest, O’Donnell was housed for a time in the Jackson County jail, where police later accused her of attempting to recruit several other inmates in a plot to kill Collins’ ex-husband, Phil Smith, and frame him for the senator’s murder.
O’Donnell pleaded no contest to murder solicitation charges in the Jackson County case, receiving seven years on those charges.
That sentence will run consecutively to a 43-year sentence in Randolph County for first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse, which was related to her attempts to conceal Collins’ body.
As part of the agreement, O’Donnell will be eligible for parole, prosecutors said.
Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.