June 15 (UPI) — Authorities have arrested a woman in connection with homicide investigation into former Arkansas State Senator Linda Collins-Smith’s death last week.
Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, of Pocahontas, Ark., is currently in custody with criminal charges pending, Arkansas State Police announced Friday.
Special agents of the criminal investigation and Randolph County sheriff’s deputies arrested O’Donnell in coordination with the Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, State Police statement said.
“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 compr[om]ise the integrity of the criminal case,” the statement said.
O’Donnell had posted a picture of herself with Collins-Smith on Facebook this week. She had campaigned for Collins-Smith’s election as a Republican to the state senate.
Arkansas State Police have not released the connection between the two women or a motive. Ken Yang, a former communications director for Collins-Smith, told TVH11 that O’Donnell had worked on the former lawmaker’s most recent campaign and they were friends.
The family issued a statement after the arrest.
“We are sickened and upset that someone so close to Linda, would be involved in such a terrible, heartless crime,” the family’s statement said. “The family is very confident that the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department and the Arkansas State Police will continue to work diligently to bring justice in this case. We would like to thank everyone for the continued prayers and thoughts for our family during this difficult time.”
Collins-Smith. 57, was found dead in her home, some 145 miles northeast of Little Rock, on June 4.
She was first elected in 2014 to the Arkansas State Senate, serving District 19.
Collins-Smith lost the primary in May 2018.
She previously served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from August 2011 to 2013. She was actually elected as a Democrat, but switched parties eight months after taking office, “complaining that the Democratic Party had moved too far left for her to remain in the party.”
Collins-Smith was also a business owner who operated the Days Inn and Suites of Pocahontas.
Her funeral was held Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at Sutton Free Will Baptist Church.
“She was a good person who served in the public arena with passion and conviction,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “The first lady and I extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this difficult time.
A day after her death, another former Republican state senator, Jonathan Nichols, was found fatally shot in his Oklahoma home, though the deaths appear to be unrelated.
A couple days after Collins-Smith’s death, police said it was being treated as a homicide.
The investigation is ongoing.