Arkansas Chief Justice Dan Kemp signed an order Wednesday naming retired Circuit Judge David Goodson of Paragould as a special judge to preside in the criminal case against Becky Lynn O’Donnell, accused of capital murder, corpse abuse and evidence tampering in the death of former Republican Sen. Linda Collins of Pocahontas.
Circuit Judge Harold Erwin had heard some preliminary matters in the case, including issuing an order at the request of Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce sealing records.
The order doesn’t give a reason for Erwin’s recusal, except to say it was requested in writing. But the appointment of Goodson means the presiding judge will not be someone who served on the Third Judicial Circuit bench with retired Judge Phil Smith, Collins’ ex-husband. Smith retired at the end of 2018. He was divorced last fall from Collins (in a case heard by my wife on special assignment). Collins had appealed the property division in the case.
A formal arraignment of O’Donnell is set July 30 in Pocahontas. She remains jailed without bond. To date, authorities have provided no information about evidence that led to the charge against O’Donnell. The manner of Collins’ death has not been revealed. Her decomposed body, concealed by a covering, was discovered outside her home June 4. O’Donnell was arrested June 14 as she and her fiance, Tim Loggains, drove to a church visitation with Collins’ family. Only O’Donnell, known as a friend of Collins, has been charged in the case. Loggains gave an interview to ABC in which he said neither he nor O’Donnell had anything to do with the death.
Goodson served almost 15 years as a circuit judge, through 2005. For the last eight years, he’s operated a dispute resolution business.