POCAHONTAS, Ark. – A media circus surrounds the prosecution of Rebecca O’Donnell for the murder of former State Senator Linda Collins but facts have remained difficult to ascertain due to secrecy from the prosecutor, the sheriff’s department, and Arkansas State Police.
To help keep up, NEA Report is publishing a list of facts we know, to date, about the case which may be relevant.
1. Collins was last seen alive on May 28, 2019
Very active on social media, Collins ceased updates on May 28. This led to early speculation that something took place the day her updates stopped. While we do not yet know the date of her death, the affidavit says she was last seen alive on May 28.
2. Collins was stabbed to death
The PC affidavit confirms the cause of death was multiple stab wounds. This only states the cause of death and does not specify other possible injuries before the death.
NEA Report had been previously told by an anonymous source she was shot. Until hard evidence proves otherwise, we are dismissing this previous detail as mistaken.
3. Collins was found by her son and her father
After no one had heard from Collins for a full week, her son – Butch Smith – and her father – Benny Collins – both went to the residence to look for their relative. At about 5:30 PM on June 4, 2019, they found the body and called 911.
4. The body was wrapped in a blanket AND under a tarp
Reports varied from the body being in a blanket to the body being in a tarp. Both were true. The PC affidavit states the body was found under a tarp in the driveway. An earlier press release from the prosecutor said the body was in an advanced state of decomposition. The smell would almost certainly have been overwhelming.
Why would a suspect wrap a body up and move the body, but then leave the body to be discovered?
5. O’Donnell is on camera in Collins’ home
It was not until June 14 when agents obtained video footage from Linda Collins’ security system, the PC affidavit said. Several sentences are redacted from the document at this point.
After several missing lines, the document confirms that on May 28, the video showed O’Donnell removing security cameras inside of Collins home.
6. O’Donnell’s fiance admitted O’Donnell was at Collins home on May 28
In an interview with ABC News, O’Donnell’s fiance Tim Loggains said O’Donnell was at the home of Collins on May 28 – the last day anyone heard from Collins. At 2:25 in this video, Loggains makes the statement.
“I believe it was May 28th. She took Linda lunch…is what she told me,” Loggains said.
The ABC reporter asks if it was to her home.
“Yes,” Loggains responds.
Loggains was stopped with O’Donnell in the car on the way to the visitation for Collins. O’Donnell was arrested. Loggains was questioned but released. As of today, he’s not been charged but law enforcement sources have him under their microscope, NEA Report has been told.
7. No alleged motive has been revealed by authorities – yet
Means, motive, and opportunity are the three basic elements of a criminal case against someone. Opportunity has been established by O’Donnell being connected to the scene. The means would be the ability of the suspect to commit the crime.
However, the primary mystery that has online commentators speculating the most is motive: why would O’Donnell murder someone she was friends with for years. A law enforcement source told NEA Report several weeks ago that there is a suspected motive. Despite us knowing what authorities believe it is, we are opting not to publish more at this time.
8. O’Donnell’s own sister called her a thief in 2014
As recently as 2014, O’Donnell’s family did not describe her well. Her sister, Shelley, said in 2014 she was a “piece of shit” who had stolen from ex-boyfriends, opened up credit cards in her kids’ names, maxed them out and never paid the bills, and worst of all, alleged that O’Donnell stole her mother’s retirement money – $160,000.
All of this information came out after a store owner reported O’Donnell for theft to Jonesboro police.
9. Loggains had power of attorney over Collins
As first reported by NEA Report, the fiance of the suspect held power of attorney over Collins’ estate for a period of time last year and possibly until the present day. Loggains helped deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars for Collins, as documented in her divorce with an ex-circuit judge.
Loggains, O’Donnell, and Collins were all very close. They attended parties with each other. O’Donnell worked on Collins’ campaign. Loggains and Collins both were strong Second Amendment supporters, with Loggains being an admin for a local gun group on social media.
10. A bitter legal fight was raging between Collins and her ex-husband: Judge Phil Smith
On the day Collins was murdered, she was locked in a legal brawl with her ex-husband, former Circuit Judge Phil Smith. Smith lost his judge seat after complaints filed against him led to judicial review launching an investigation. The exact reason and complaint hasn’t been revealed in the press. Judicial review made a deal with Smith leading to him resigning and avoiding further disgrace by keeping his egregious behavior secret.
Despite that, Smith appeared victorious in his divorce proceedings with Collins by all perspectives. Collins was derided by Judge Ellen Brantley for difficulty accounting for missing money. Collins appealed the decision and the case was knee-deep in filings when she was found dead.
Ex-Judge Smith has made no statements regarding her death to any media outlet.
11. The Arkansas Times had the details of the PC affidavit perfect
While Prosecutor Henry Boyce denied leaking the PC affidavit to The Arkansas Times, the report published on accident by the outlet on Friday, July 12 was perfectly accurate to what was released on Tuesday, July 30. In the report, Max Brantley wrote that Boyce had sent him a copy of the sealed record.
Brantley reported the victim was stabbed – not shot (accurate) and that security camera footage captured O’Donnell at the scene (accurate). The Times reported this due to Boyce releasing the sealed file. Boyce denied this in a press release while admitting he would be in violation of the order to seal had he done so.
The Times retracted the story and posted an update saying the story was published by accident. In a statement released here, the Times also claimed no one sent them the affidavit.
There are other details NEA Report has reported that are not in this story. We opted to stick with facts from officials on-record or evidence we physically saw (the messages from her sister, for example).
To review every story in the investigation, we’ve created a page you may access here.