COURT APPEARANCE: Screenshot of ABC report on the case earlier this year.

A tidbit related to the ongoing investigation of the murder of former Republican Sen. Linda Collins: State Police obtained a search warrant for a vehicle belonging to the suspect’s mother within the last two weeks.


Rebecca O’Donnell was charged with capital murder in the case. She’s accused of fatally stabbing her one-time friend at Collins’ Pocahontas home in June 2019. A security camera provided some key evidence, according to limited information released under strict court orders, along with phone calls O’Donnell made while jailed. She is in custody without bond in Randolph County.

A hearing is set May 21 on whether parties have received all evidence in the case and to hear O’Donnell’s challenge of the constitutionality of the death penalty.


Meanwhile, this has surfaced in court records: April 10, State Police Special Agent Mike McNeill obtained a search warrant from special Circuit Judge John Fogleman for a red 2011 Ford Focus owned by Sandra Gipson. The affidavit for the search warrant identifies Gipson as O’Donnell’s “biological mother.”  McNeill said he believed that “on the above-described property there is now being concealed biological evidence” in the charges against O’Donnell of capital murder, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.

In a return of the warrant, McNeill said he met Gipson at the Randolph County sheriff’s office on April 14, took possession of the car and had it towed to the state Crime Lab “to be processed for trace evidence.” The return of the warrant does not indicate whether relevant evidence was found.


In providing the information to the Randolph County clerk, Judge Fogleman included a letter that said the request for a warrant and the return of the warrant could be filed publicly, but a supplemental affidavit for the search warrant should remain under seal. That affidavit contains information on which McNeill based his belief the vehicle might contain evidence.

One subject of the May 21 hearing is what, if any, case materials under seal may be released.

O’Donnell was charged additionally in January of this year with talking to other jail inmates about a plot to kill Collins’ ex-husband, retired Judge Phil Smith, and about blowing up a vehicle in possession of the sheriff that might contain damaging evidence. The latter related to O’Donnell’s 2005 Honda, according to an affidavit filed in that case.