Circuit judge recused in Collins murder

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POCAHONTAS, Ark. – Third Judicial District Circuit Judge Harold Erwin is no longer the judge over the capital murder of former State Senator Linda Collins.

Arkansas Times reports Arkansas Chief Justice Dan Kemp signed an order on Wednesday naming a retired Paragould circuit judge, David Goodson, to preside as the special judge over the case. No reason was given for the change.

Presently, only Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell has been arrested and is accused of capital murder, abusing the corpse and tampering with evidence.

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Erwin heard several matters in the case already, most notably a request by Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce to seal records that include the probable cause affidavit for O’Donnell.

The order states that Erwin requested the recusal. It doesn’t state why he requested it or why it took him this long.

Erwin served on the same bench as the ex-husband of the murder victim, former Circuit Judge Phil Smith. Smith was forced to resign following a bitter divorce with Collins. However, Smith won virtually all he asked for in his divorce proceeding, which was coincidentally heard by Judge Ellen Brantley – wife of the Arkansas Times editor.

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Formal arraignment of O’Donnell is set for July 30 in Pocahontas.

Authorities have indicated their investigation is at a “critical” junction but not provided any further details if more arrests are expected.

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