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Woman accused of killing ex-state senator pleads innocent to attempt to arrange murders

by John Moritz | January 29, 2020 at 12:33 p.m.
FILE — Rebecca O'Donnell is escorted through the Randolph County courthouse after a hearing on July 30.

POCAHONTAS — The woman accused of killing former state senator Linda Collins pleaded innocent Wednesday to related charges that she had conspired to arrange additional murders while locked in jail.

Rebecca O’Donnell was charged earlier this month with two counts each of solicitation to commit capital murder and solicitation to tamper with physical evidence, after police said that multiple women at the Jackson County jail accused O’Donnell of seeking their help in arranging the murders of Collins' ex-husband, Phil Smith, as well as other officials connected to her murder case.

Police also accused O’Donnell of seeking someone to “blow up” her car being held in police impound.

O’Donnell’s attorneys have called the accusations “outlandish” and said they are driven by women seeking lighter sentences while in jail.

Collins’ family has said the charges strengthen the case against O’Donnell, a close friend and campaign aide to the former Republican lawmaker.

O’Donnell pleaded innocent to charges last year that she killed Collins at the woman's home in Pocahontas.

While the charges in the murder case stem from Randolph County, the newest charges against O’Donnell were filed in Jackson County, where O’Donnell had been held in jail until recently being transferred to the jail outside Pocahontas.

O’Donnell's first appearance Wednesday, however, was held at the Randolph County Courthouse, where judge John Fogleman was considering other matters in the murder case.

On Wednesday, Fogleman issued a modified order sealing search warrant affidavits and the investigative file from the murder investigation, which had been sought by attorneys for ABC News and the Arkansas Press Association.

Fogleman said that he would review other documents already submitted with the circuit clerk to see if any additional materials would be released to the public.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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