HENRY BOYCE: Gets off murder case.

A new prosecutor will be appointed to handle the prosecution of Rebecca O’Donnell, charged with capital murder in the slaying last June of former Republican state Sen. Linda Collins of Pocahontas.

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Circuit Judge John Fogleman signed an order Wednesday relieving Boyce of the duty at Boyce’s request. The order does not give a reason for his stepping down from the case.
Boyce did not return my calls Wednesday and Thursday about the matter.
The brief order said simply that Boyce had moved to be relieved and that the judge had reviewed the request and granted the motion.
It may or may not be relevant that Boyce is a candidate for district judge in the March elections. Bob McMahan, the state prosecutor coordinator who arranges special prosecutors on request, confirms that he’d been asked to find a special prosecutor. He said he had no information on what led to Boyce’s request.
The case, apart from the high-profile nature of the victim, has stirred controversy from the start, beginning with an early order requested by Boyce closing information in the case. It has been through a series of judges.

Judge Harold Erwin, and then Judge Tom Garner recused because they served in the same circuit with Collins’ ex-husband, Phil Smith, who is retired from the bench. Retired Judge David Goodson was appointed to preside, but he stepped off the case for undisclosed reasons Nov. 26 and Chief Justice Dan Kemp named Fogleman to succeed him.

The case has been a hot topic on social media and conspiracy theories have grown up around the case, in part thanks to orders that attorneys not discuss the case and to the limited amount of information that has been made available. Some of the more elaborate theories, I should disclose, touch on me, as a liberal columnist who was critical of Collins’ politics over the years, and my wife, retired Judge Ellen Brantley, who was appointed as a special judge to preside over the Collins-Smith marital property dispute in their divorce case.

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Evidence in that case, on appeal at the time of Collins’ slaying,  coincidentally touched indirectly on O’Donnell. Her fiance, Tim Loggains, was identified in the court record as holding Collins’ power of attorney and once attempting to handle a bank transfer of more than $400,000, representing an income tax refund that had been made to Collins and Smith. O’Donnell was arrested as she and Loggains drove to a visitation the night before Collins’ funeral. Loggains has not been charged in the case and has asserted O’Donnell’s innocence. O’Donnell has been represented by public defenders Lee Short and Kate Streett, who have declined comment on the case.

Collins was found stabbed to death outside her Pocahontas home. A redacted State Police affidavit was eventually released that said O’Donnell, a friend and former campaign worker for Collins, had been arrested in part on account of recovered security video at Collins’ home that showed her removing security cameras.

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She’s been jailed since her arrest. A trial is set Oct. 19, 2020.