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Friend of slain former Arkansas state senator charged with murder

Arrest made in death of Arkansas politician
Police arrest woman in connection to death of Arkansas state senator 03:00

A friend of a former Arkansas state senator found slain has been formally charged with murder and appeared in court Monday morning. Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell, 48, was charged with capital murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence in the death of former Arkansas State Sen. Linda Collins-Smith. O'Donnell, of Pocahontas, was arrested Friday in the death of Collins-Smith, who was found dead outside her home about two hours northeast of Little Rock on June 4.

O'Donnell was ordered held without bond during a brief court appearance Monday, reports CBS affiliate KTVH-TV. O'Donnell appeared with her hands shackled, wearing a checkered black-and-gray jail uniform and a bullet-proof vest, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. O'Donnell appeared with a public defender, who filed an affidavit of indigency, according to the paper. She reportedly didn't speak.

Documents in the case have reportedly been sealed and police have released few details about the circumstances surrounding the death of Collins-Smith, who was elected to the state senate as a Republican in 2014 but lost a re-election bid last year. The former senator's body was found in an "advanced state of decomposition" and it took authorities two days to identify the remains using dental records, the paper reports, citing a statement by prosecuting attorney Henry Boyce.

Former Arkansas State Senator Linda Collins-Smith, left, and Rebecca O'Donnell, right, the woman charged in her death. KTVH-TV

After O'Donnell was arrested Friday by the Randolph County Sheriff's office and Arkansas State Police, state officials said the investigation was at a "critical juncture" and no further information would be released "until authorities are confident it will not compromise the integrity of the criminal case."

According to Ken Yang, a former communications director for Collins, O'Donnell had worked on the former lawmaker's most recent campaign and the two of them were "good friends."

"They traveled together and did grassroots stuff, even after Linda lost her re-election," Yang told CBS News' Jericka Duncan.

Family members of Collins-Smith released a statement saying, "We are sickened and upset that someone so close to Linda would be involved in such a heartless crime."

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