Friend charged with murder of ex-Arkansas state senator who was found slain outside her home

Rebecca O’Donnell, 48, was charged with murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with physical evidence Monday.

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By Ben Kesslen

A friend and onetime campaign aide for a former Arkansas state senator found dead outside her home has been charged with her murder.

Rebecca O’Donnell, 48, was charged Monday with murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence in the death of former state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith.

O’Donnell and Collins-Smith, 57, were friends and worked together last year, Collins-Smith’s former press secretary Ken Yang previously told NBC News. O’Donnell, a former campaign staffer for Collins-Smith, was taken into custody Friday, according to Arkansas State Police.

Police discovered Collins-Smith’s body outside her home in Pocahontas, Arkansas, on June 4. According to Henry H. Boyce, the prosecuting attorney in the case, it took investigators two days to identify the former senator using dental records because her body was in an “advanced state of decomposition.”

Gregg Parrish, the executive director of the Arkansas Association of Public Defenders, said O’Donnell does not have the means to hire her own attorney.

Collins-Smith served in both the Arkansas House and its Senate. In 2017, she introduced a controversial transgender “bathroom bill” that would have required people to use the bathrooms that correspond to their assigned sex.