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POCAHONTAS, Ark. – When Melissa Jones hired a woman as a favor in 2014, she came to regret it after a few short weeks when she caught her stealing and had to fire her.
That woman was Rebecca “Becky” O’Donnell – the same woman now incarcerated for capital murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence in the death of former State Senator Linda Collins.
Jones operates Curvy’s in Jonesboro and Southern Vogue online. Before those, she began her business as a fashionista with the Select Seconds consignment shops in Pocahontas and Jonesboro.
In 2014, she said she was at a class reunion when she came across her best friend from high school, Shelley, and her sister – Becky O’Donnell. It wasn’t the first time they had met. They attended school together, said Jones to NEA Report on Thursday.
“She was completely normal in school – not in trouble ever,” Jones said. “She worked at IGA [supermarket] as a cashier. I thought she was going to go far and I had not seen her in those years.”
After striking up a conversation, the subject of Jones’ consignment shop came up. O’Donnell asked if she was hiring. The answer was yes – $10 an hour for the position of cashier in Jonesboro. But as Jones recalls, that’s where the first sign of trouble began.
“She didn’t want to work for $10 an hour,” said Jones.
But the consignment store owner presented her with a compromise: take the job temporarily until she could find a better paying one. O’Donnell agreed.
Several weeks without incident went by. One hot day, October 20, 2014, Jones said an employee caught O’Donnell stashing a bag full of designer jeans behind the dumpster outside. O’Donnell did this while she was taking out the garbage.
“I have zero tolerance for thieves so I called the police immediately,” Jones wrote in a Facebook post about the topic.
Jones recalls Jonesboro police arrived and explaining to them what happened. She said O’Donnell asked her to please not press charges because of her children. Jones believed this was unlikely to be the first time a theft had happened but the officer also seemed to think letting the incident go was the right decision, so Jones did.
“Becky’s demeanor was so weird,” Jones said. “You know how you see someone without any remorse when they’ve done something bad. It was like that. Real cool and calm, standing there before that cop. Not getting crazy or begging me – just standing there.”
Afterward, Jones told her to leave. She said O’Donnell asked if she could wait in the store for a ride but Jones refused. It was a sad ending to a favor Jones tried to do for the woman. It also left Jones concerned about her friendship with her long-time friend, and O’Donnell’s sister, Shelley.
Then, she received a message on Facebook from Shelley. She copied and pasted the message to NEA Report:
“I wish you would’ve pressed charges against my sister. In the last 6 months I have found out that she has stolen from so many people and only one person went after her. She stole all my moms retirement money…about $160k” Shelley wrote.
Jones responded she was “glad you wrote me” because she assumed her friend would be angry for firing O’Donnell. Jones explained that she had been begged not to and showed compassion.
“No way I was mad at u. I didn’t believe her but I’m interested in your side of the story. She told me that she had put a bag of clothes outside the back of the store and forgot about it but when u found it that u called a staff meeting and she confessed she did it but did not intend to steal. She has stolen from ex boyfriends and she also opened up credit cards in her kids names and maxed them out and never paid the bills ruining their credit. She is a piece of shit. I haven’t spoken to her in over a year.” Shelley wrote.
NEA Report received screenshot copies of the messages, delivered through Facebook Messenger, and verified they are authentic. Due to the surge in online harassment of those involved with this case, we are opting to not publish Shelley’s last name at the present. We reached out to Shelley to ask for her comment on the messages or her sister but we have not received a response or indicator that she has read our message.
On Wednesday, the public defender assigned to defend O’Donnell made contact with NEA Report. Katherine Streett of Little Rock confirmed she was assigned the case but she was unable to make comments on-the-record.
Also Wednesday, a Freedom of Information Act request for the probable cause affidavit for O’Donnell was denied by Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce. O’Donnell was in court for her probable cause hearing Monday but the document that states evidence she has been arrested upon has still not been revealed to the public.
Boyce asked for patience in a release on Monday from media “in the coming weeks,” indicating the investigation was far from complete. No other updates have been provided since.
O’Donnell is incarcerated in Jackson County Jail in Newport with no option for bond, VineLink records show. She was previously held in Lawrence County Jail before Monday.
UPDATE: 6/21/19 – After our publication, we received a response for a FOIA request from JPD’s Sally Smith. An incident report was completed about this occurrence. This was the only report by JPD of anything involving O’Donnell.
I was dispatched to 2209 East Highland in reference to an attempted theft. I met with the complainant (owner) and the suspect (employee) in the back of the store. The suspect (Odonnell) told me that Friday, she took the listed the property out the back door and left it to pick it up later. She claimed that she was going to ask the owner later if she could take the items home for her child to try on and if they fit she was going to pay for them. Another employee found the property outside and returned to the store and informed the owner. Mrs French-Jones stated that it was against any and all policies to take property out the back door and at this time she did not believe Ms. Odonnell story and wants to prosecute for theft. Ms. French-Jones was explained to that due to the value being under $1000. she would have to go prosecute thru the prosecuting attorneys office. She was given the case number and instructions on the affidavit process.
CPL Shipman 34