Officials are still withholding confirmation that a body found Tuesday evening at the home of former Republican Sen. Linda Collins-Smith is that of Collins-Smith.
Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce of Newport issued a brief statement saying, as we reported last night, that the condition of the body, which was outside the home, prevented immediate positive identification.
Though various sources told different news outlets that they believed Collins-Smith was the victim of a gunshot wound and had been wrapped in something resembling a blanket, these details, too, have not been confirmed. Boyce said the state Crime Lab was working on a positive identification and the cause of death, but it is being treated so far as a homicide. Authorities are hopeful they can confirm the identity with dental records soon.
Boyce also said Circuit Judge Harold Erwin had issued an order sealing documents and statements obtained during the investigation of the case. The home, which had been jointly owned by Collins-Smith, 57, and her former husband, retired Circuit Judge Philip Smith, 69, lies outside Pocahontas city limits. The sheriff’s office has jurisdiction in the case but has sought assistance from the State Police. Collins-Smith was divorced from Smith in October, but she was appealing a property division and attorney fees in the case. (Disclosure: My wife, retired Judge Ellen Brantley, was assigned to hear the divorce case when the local judge recused.)
Neighbors said they’d heard gunshots recently. Her body was discovered when a family member checked on her after not hearing from her for several days (not doors as I originally wrote), police said. She maintained a fairly active presence on social media, but made her last Facebook post May 21. Her last post on her Collins-Smith Twitter account was Monday, May 27, when she said she looked forward to seeing people at the Arkansas Country Music Awards program Monday, June 3. On May 28, on a Linda Collins account, she posted a video of musicians.
Collins-Smith was conservative even by Republican standards. She lost a primary race for re-election in 2018. She made headlines for attempts to pass a so-called bathroom bill about use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender people and for her advocacy of laws to allow concealed weapons in more places for self-defense.
The sheriff is to have a news briefing soon.
UPDATE: Sheriff Kevin Bell simply read the statement Boyce had issued earlier. He took no questions.