Robert Dittrich, a retired veteran prosecutor from Stuttgart, has been named special prosecutor in the capital murder case against Rebecaa O’Donnell, accused in the fatal stabbing of former Republican Sen. Linda Collins of Pocahontas.
Dittrich, 70, retired as a prosecutor at the end of
2017 2018, after 38 years of public service. He’s expected to be joined by appointment of a second prosecutor to assist in the case. UPDATE: I talked with Dittrich briefly. He said he’s working one year as a deputy prosecutor in Jefferson County and will retire from that at the end of this year. He said he hadn’t fully reviewed the file yet, but expected ample time was available before the trial date setting for him to prepare.
Judge John Fogleman’s order appointing Dittrich was filed Tuesday in Randolph Circuit Court.
Dittrich’s appointment was arranged by the state prosecutor coordinator’s office after Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce stepped off the case for undisclosed reasons. Judge Fogleman is also a special judge in this case after an earlier special judge, retired Judge David Goodson, stepped off the case for undisclosed hearings.
O’Donnell has been jailed since her arrest pending a trial in October. She is being represented by public defenders.
Few facts have been made public about the investigation that led to the arrest of O’Donnell, long a friend and campaign supporter of Smith. Unredacted portions of the affidavit submitted for an arrest warrant in the case said O’Donnell was seen in security camera video footage, presumably stored in the cloud, removing security cameras from Smith’s house.
Smith’s body was found wrapped in a blanket or similar covering outside her house June 4. Decomposition of the body indicated her death had occurred some time before. Collins was divorced from retired Circuit Judge Phil Smith. O’Donnell was arrested while driving with her fiance, Tim Loggains, to a family visitation the night before the funeral.
No changes or new hearings have been set in the case since Dittrich’s appointment. The judge, however, has under consideration a request from ABC News and the Arkansas Press Association for a rehearing of Judge Goodson’s orders that lawyers in the case not talk to the press. The press intervenors also want access to more information from the investigation and to assure open hearings of proceedings. There’s wide latitude under the law to seal investigative files and for judges to silence lawyers during proceedings.