HEADING TO COURT: Becky O’Donnell suspect in the death of Linda Collins. Credit: KAIT-TV/Miranda Reynolds.

Becky O’Donnell, 48, of Pocahontas, was arraigned Monday in court in Pocahontas on a capital murder charge in the death of former Sen. Linda Collins.

A judge found probable cause for her to be held, KAIT-TV reported, and she’ll remain in custody without bond. Miranda Reynolds of KAIT-TV also reports that O’Donnell has been charged with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

A circuit judge earlier had approved Prosecutor Henry Boyce’s request that documents in the case be sealed. Today, O’Donnell didn’t speak in court and the prosecution provided no additional details. There was no release of an affidavit filed to obtain a warrant for O’Donnell’s arrest.

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Collins’ body was found outside her home June 4. It was wrapped in a covering. O’Donnell was arrested Friday night en route with her boyfriend, Tim Loggains, to funeral home visitation with Collins’ family.

Police have not specified the cause of death or offered any clues as to a motive. Collins is believed to have died several days before the body was found because decomposition had begun. She was identified from dental records.

O’Donnell was a friend of Collins. She campaigned for her and was a corroborating witness in her divorce from retired Circuit Judge Phil Smith. Testimony in that case also showed that O’Donnell’s boyfriend, Loggains, had Collins’ power of attorney and had cashed, or attempted to cash, almost $500,000 in state and federal income tax refund checks made out jointly to Collins and her husband. The smaller state check, about $52,000, was cashed and then a cashier’s check was issued to Collins. A bank notified Smith of the effort to cash the larger federal check, about $428,000, and he asked that it not be cashed without his signature. It was deposited in a different bank account belonging to Collins. The handling of that money was an issue in the trial and in Collins’ pending appeal of the property settlement. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s John Moritz reported that Loggains was in court today. Loggains joined Collins at the Capitol on several occasions in support legislation broadening the ability to carry weapons.

Andrew DeMillo of the Associated Press reported that Loggains had released a statement that said O’Donnell was innocent. The article described Loggains as O’Donnell’s fiance. The statement said Loggains and O’Donnell loved Collins and “tirelessly gave our time and energy to support her, in every way.” From the statement:

“Although Becky and I are devastated by the current accusations, we are trying to trust the judicial process and we hope that every possible suspect is being looked into. A lot of hurtful things are being printed and we ask that people please show us mercy while the police investigate every possibility.”

O’Donnell’s connection with Collins was included in documents filed with Collins’ appeal of the property settlement to the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Her ex-husband’s response was due in court today, but his attorney asked for a delay. Andrew Taylor said he needed time because of demands from several appeals, but he also added:

In addition, and as the Court is likely aware, the appellant in this case
was recently found murdered in her home. As such, a remand will likely be necessary under Planchon v. Local Police & Fire Ret. Sys. Based on conversations with counsel for the appellant, it is the undersigned counsel’s understanding that the family is still deciding how to proceed, but with the death being so recent, have not yet made a formal decision.

Collins and Smith had two children. Her father also survives her. All were in court today.

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Prosecutor Boyce issued a statement today that indicates information will continue to be in short supply.

As has already been reported last week an individual has been arrested by authorities in connection with her alleged involvement in the death of former State Senator Linda Collins. The investigation began on June 4th when her body was discovered at her residence in an advanced state of decomposition. It took investigators collaborating with the Arkansas Crime Lab Medical Examiner’s office two days to positively identify the body with dental records.

Public interest in this case immediately began generating news reports and social media activity which became a distraction to law enforcement within hours of the discovery of the body. We sought an order to seal documentary evidence necessary to pursue the investigation without continuous interruption by the public. The order to seal is not a “gag” order as has been reported in the press. It is a judicial option available under the law in order to protect sensitive information necessary to lead to the discovery of evidence which in this case has led to the arrest of an individual for her alleged involvement in the crime.

The rules of professional conduct for Prosecuting Attorneys dictate that we discourage members of the law enforcement community from making statements of a public nature which may have the effect of jeopardizing the accused’s right to a fair trial. The biggest threat to the successful prosecution of any criminal case is the premature release of information which has the tendency, as with this case, to become distorted and ultimately has the effect of prejudicing the potential jurors who may eventually be chosen to hear the case at trial.

It is my hope that in the coming weeks the media will be patient until the authorities charged with gathering evidence in this case can complete their task of gathering evidence in order to bring this case to justice.