Rebecca O’Donnell, the woman accused of killing Sen. Linda Collins, pleaded innocent today to separate charges that while in jail, she conspired to arrange a murder-for-hire plot and destroy evidence, the D-G reports.
O’Donnell was charged earlier this month with two counts of solicitation to commit capital murder and two counts of solicitation to commit tampering with physical evidence. According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Jackson County, O’Donnell attempted to hire follow inmates in county jail to murder Collins’ ex-husband, his current wife, a judge and a prosecutor. She also allegedly looked into hiring inmates to travel to the Randolph County jail, where her 2005 Honda Civic is being held, and “blow it up to destroy any evidence that may be in the vehicle,” according the affidavit.
After she was arrested and charged with the murder of Collins, O’Donnell was initially held in the Jackson County jail, where the alleged plots were hatched. Early this month, O’Donnell was transferred from Jackson County to the Randolph County Detention Center.
O’Donnell is charged in Randolph County in the Collins case and Jackson County in the murder-for-hire case, but she entered her not guilty plea for the latter today in the Randolph County Courthouse in Pocahontas, where the judge also issued an order related to the Collins case. Circuit Judge John Fogleman sealed certain records from the murder investigation that had been sought by ABC News and the Arkansas Press Association, the D-G reports.
O’Donnell’s attorneys have called the new charges against her “outlandish” and argued that the accusations are simply efforts by other inmates to cut deals with authorities.
The probable cause affidavit, based upon interviews conducted by state police, allege that O’Donnell approached four different inmates locked up with her about murdering Collins’ ex-husband, Phil Smith, and making the death look like a suicide. O’Donnell also sought to arrange to kill his new wife, Mary Smith, Randolph County Judge Harold Erwin and Henry Boyce (then the prosecutor on the Linda Collins murder case, before he recused last month), according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also alleges that Emily Loggains, the daughter of O’Donnell’s fiancé, attempted to help bail out one of the inmates that O’Donnell recruited in the alleged murder plot.
O’Donnell, a close friend and former campaign aide to Collins, pleaded not guilty in July to charges of capital murder of Collins, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty, with the trial set to begin in October.