Rebecca O’Donnell, a 48-year-old Arkansas woman whose Facebook page indicates she was a supporter of Linda Collins-Smith’s campaign, is accused in the murder of the former state Senator.
Linda Collins-Smith was a staunch Republican, realtor and businesswoman who was found murdered at her home in Arkansas.
O’Donnell also goes by the names Becky O’Donnell and Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell.
“Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division and Deputies of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department, in coordination with the Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, have arrested one person in connection with the homicide of former Arkansas State Senator Linda Collins-Smith,” the Arkansas State Police wrote in a news release.
In 2017, the Randolph County Republican Committee posted the below photo of O’Donnell with a man who wrote on Facebook that he was in a relationship with her. That man has also assisted the Collins-Smith campaign, according to social media posts by the man and Collins-Smith (because he’s not accused in connection with the death in any way, Heavy is choosing to withhold his name.)
“Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, of Pocahontas is currently in custody. Criminal charges are pending.” They said they would not release additional details because “the investigation is presently at a critical juncture and no further information will be released at this hour until authorities are confident it will not comprise the integrity of the criminal case.”
On social media, Collins-Smith was a pro-gun rights advocate and self-described Christian conservative. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, she was a Republican senator for District 19 from 2015 through 2019 and previously served in Arkansas’ House.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell Posed for Photos With Collins-Smith & Posted Campaign Videos on Facebook
Winnie Wright, a journalist in Memphis, wrote on Twitter that the link between O’Donnell and Collins-Smith is Collins-Smith’s campaign.
“BREAKING: @ARStatePolice announce a woman is in custody in connection with the murder of former Arkansas Senator, Linda Collins Smith. What appears to be Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell’s Facebook page shows her posing for photos w/Collins-Smith & working on her re-election campaign,” Wright wrote.
Authorities, in a news conference, did not release much information, including how O’Donnell knew Collins-Smith.
On Facebook, though, O’Donnell’s Facebook profile picture shows her with Linda Collins-Smith. It was posted only on June 10, 2019.
O’Donnell also posted several videos on Facebook showing a man holding a Linda Collins-Smith campaign sign to passing traffic. With one of them, O’Donnell wrote, “Who says campaigning can’t be fun???”
Collins-Smith responded positively on one of the campaign videos. “Thank you it means more than you know. Just wait a blast always. We should alwAys (sic) have fun with constituents,” she wrote.
O’Donnell appears in multiple photos with the man who says he was in a relationship with her; he also shared photos with Collins-Smith and appears in pictures that Collins-Smith posted to Twitter at various events. Thanks babe! I can always count on you to say something sweet,” O’Donnell wrote to the man on one photo on Facebook, indicating a close relationship.
The man has posted about working on Collins-Smith’s campaign and also posted tributes to her after she was murdered, including videos and photos of memorial services for her. A friend wrote on a picture the man posted to Facebook showing him with O’Donnell and Collins-Smith: “I love this picture & I loved Linda Collins too…I know you both did too….we’ve got to all pull together and seek justice.” Another friend commented, “I hope they find whoever did this quickly and punish them to the fullest extent of the law. Such a loss.” That was a week before O’Donnell was taken into custody.
The man also wrote a tribute to Collins-Smith after her murder. “Two hour phone calls, random trips to some political function, a conservative voice, a tireless patriot. Loving mom and grandmommy,” he wrote. “My heart breaks for my hometown and for Arkansas. But mostly, I miss my friend. I’ve never had a better friend…she loved me through my faults and made me better just for knowing her. My heart breaks. I’m still trying to make sense if it all. I know you are making heaven a little brighter, because it sure is darker here without you. Love you and miss you my friend.” In 2017, he again praised Collins-Smith, saying that she brought his 12-year-old son “a chance to win a .22LR Henry Golden Boy ‘cold dead hands’ rifle at a local NRA banquet and auction. He called Collins-Smith “a true patriot and one of the few good lawmakers we have.”
People on both sides of the political aisle were shocked by the death of Collins-Smith – including the governor.
“I’m both stunned and saddened by the death of former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith. She was a good person who served in the public arena with passion and conviction,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted. “The First Lady and I extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this difficult time.”
2. Collins-Smith, Who Was Shot to Death, Wrote Positive Comments on Becky O’Donnell’s Facebook Page
Collins-Smith had posted positive comments on O’Donnell’s Facebook page. For example, in 2018, she wrote several comments on a photo showing O’Donnell with a man. Another woman wrote on the comment thread, “Tell Tim to smile.” Linda Collins-Smith wrote, “Becky O’Donnell looks like a smile to me.”
Collins-Smith also wrote: “I love this photo. Both of you are smiling so BIG!”
How did Collins-Smith die? Collins-Smith’s former press secretary Ken Yang told the media she was dead from a gunshot wound. He alleged the body was found wrapped in a blanket a day or two after neighbors heard gunshots.
For days, the death was shrouded in secrecy, and a judge even issued a gag order into the case, preventing details from leaking.
According to KAIT-TV, the body was discovered at former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith’s Pocahontas home.
The initial police press release, sent to Heavy by Bill Sadler, Arkansas State Police Public Information Officer, said only that the Arkansas State Police were “contacted late yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, June 5, 2019), and requested to provide investigative assistance at a residence in Pocahontas (Randolph County). The location was identified as 4023 Arkansas Highway 90 (West).”
“Special Agents of the department’s Criminal Investigation Division were met at the location by Randolph County Sheriff’s Department personnel who reported individuals, familiar with the person who resided at the home, had discovered human remains outside the home.”
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that the body was found outside her home, though, contradicting some other reports.
3. Becky O’Donnell Is From Pocahontas, Arkansas & Sold Monogrammed Easter Bunnies
On Facebook, Rebecca O’Donnell says she “went to Pocahontas School District No 19 High School,” lives in Pocahontas, Arkansas, and is from Pocahontas, Arkansas.
In 2018, she sold monogrammed Easter bunnies, writing on Facebook, “I’m still taking orders until tomorrow at noon! I have large eggs personalized with a name or monogram, filled with a personalized bunny, bottle of bubbles, Easter eraser, stamp marker and 8 pieces of candy. $8. Small personalized egg filled with an easter eraser, stamp marker and 8 pieces of candy. $5. I still have a few baskets left that I can personalize also. Very limited in large bunnies. Get your order in now!”
She also posted photos showing her with small children and other family members.
Meanwhile, people called Collins-Smith a passionate voice for the community and Republican viewpoints.
“Today, we learned of the untimely death of former Senator Linda Collins Smith,” wrote the Arkansas GOP on Twitter. “She was a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family. We are praying for her loved ones during this difficult time.”
Politicians also praised Collins-Smith.
“I’m saddened to learn of Linda Collins-Smith’s untimely passing. This tragedy is a shock to her community and our entire state. I am praying her loved ones and all those mourning her find peace and comfort in this difficult time. We are grateful for her service to Arkansans,” Senator John Boozman wrote.
“I’m saddened to hear about the death of former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith. She always worked hard for her constituents and I ask you keep her family and her friends in your prayers as they mourn her passing,” wrote Rep. Rick Crawford.
4. Rebecca O’Donnell Is a Mother, Grandmother & Donald Trump Supporter
On Facebook, Rebecca O’Donnell made it clear that she is both a mother and grandmother. “…all 3 times were a huge charm for me:) I love my grands❤️” she wrote with one photo.
Despite conspiracy theories online tying the murders (without evidence) to the Clintons, Rebecca O’Donnell made it clear on Facebook that she was a supporter of President Donald Trump in 2016, sharing a campaign sign. She also shared posts about remembering 9/11, the Christian cross, American flag, inspirational sayings, and one that said, “this world needs Jesus!”
On her Twitter page, Collins-Smith described has a “Christian Conservative; Pro-Life, Business, Family, Guns, Veterans, Better Education & Patriot. Love God, Family and Country!”
She was pro-gun, a lifetime member of the NRA and a founding member of the Friends of the NRA in a local community.
Her last tweet came May 27. It was a share of a post about the Arkansas Country Music Awards. On May 26, she wrote on Twitter, “Floodwaters reach homes in Fort Smith; 100-200 people flee as Arkansas River rises.”
Collins-Smith was pro Trump.
That same day she retweeted a post that read, “On Thursday evening, President Trump signed a memorandum that will finally enforce a 23-year-old provision requiring sponsors of legal immigrants to reimburse the government for any social services the immigrant uses in the United States.”
She wrote: “proud to see people having a good time with family and friends and showing patriotic pride! #MAGA #POTUS thank you! #HappyIndependenceDay #HappyFourthOfJuly Let’s keep it up & don’t allow people to take us down! Pray for our Pres. @realDonaldTrump & next @Scotus nomination!”
5. Collins-Smith Worked as a Real Estate Agent
Collins-Smith’s website makes her conservative ideals clear. However, in addition to a politician, she was also a business owner.
“Linda Collins-Smith served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2010 to 2012, representing Randolph and Sharp counties,” her website explains. “While in the legislature, she served on the following committees: Revenue and Taxation; City, County, and Local; and Energy. She also served as the Arkansas House Chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council.”
It continues: “Linda is a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, and a community leader. She and her family own and operate lodging businesses in Pocahontas. She has been a regional sales manager, a nationally recognized real estate agent, president of the Arkansas Lodging Association, and winner of statewide tourism awards. She has served on the Arkansas Ethics Commission and the Lower Mississippi Delta Development
She was divorced not that long ago and left behind children and grandchildren.
The Smiths’ daughter-in-law wrote a heartbroken tribute to Linda Collins-Smith on Facebook. “This amazing woman is my mother-in-law, my children’s grandmommy, the love of my life mom. Linda Collins loved her family,” wrote Jennifer McKenzie-Smith on Facebook.
“Now, a monster has taken her away from us. My children can no longer make new memories with their grandmommy, my husband doesn’t have his mom, I dont have my mother in law. This is the most hardest thing to go through, there are no words to describe the pain, and heartache.I want to Thank everyone for all the love, and support. She will be missed but never forgotten. Love you Grandmommy. #justiceforLinda.”