REBECCA O’DONNELL: In prison photo. Efforts to destroy digital evidence fell short in murder case.

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As reported last night, previously sealed documents are being publicly released in the court record of the murder case, now concluded, against Rebecca O’Donnell for the fatal stabbing of former Sen. Linda Collins at her Pocahontas home May 28, 2019. O’Donnell entered a negotiated guilty plea to a 50-year sentence.

As the Times reported earlier based on documents in a related murder-for-hire case against O’Donnell in Jackson County, investigators believed O’Donnell stabbed Collins after the former senator confronted her long-time friend for stealing from her. Video captured by Collins’ home security cameras showed O’Donnell holding a knife believed used in the killing as well as Collins’ purse, which had bloodstains.

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For the record, here are some of the court documents now available:

Here’s the affidavit for a search warrant to search Collins’ home, filed June 4.

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Here’s the return on that warrant. It shows items were taken, including an Apple computer, two iPads and 2 cell phones. Conspiracy theorists who had once thought O’Donnell was being framed have proposed a variety of theories about police access to Collins’ computers and what information they might contain. Warrants were issued to search Google, Apple, the computer, and AT&T and Verizon records for Rebecca O’Donnell’s phone and Collins’ missing phone. They also obtained a warrant to search Collins’ and O’Donnell’s Facebook accounts.

The affidavit for O’Donnell’s phone records indicates where O’Donnell’s stories to investigators began breaking down. She had told investigators she’d lost her phone and it contained the record of her calls with Collins, whose phone also was missing.

Collins’ body was found by her son, Butch Smith, on June 4. Investigators talked to O’Donnell that day. She said she’d had a dispute with Collins on May 28 and had not seen her since. But Butch Smith said he’d seen O’Donnell pull into his mother’s residence on June 3. Investigators also talked to O’Donnell’s fiance, Tim Loggains, who told them O’Donnell went to Collins’ house every day.

Investigators also received a warrant to search an HP computer tower that had been delivered to the sheriff’s office on June 5 by Benjamin Collins. He said he’d been given the computer by Collins several months before and instructed him to give it to law enforcement should anything ever happen to her.

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Here’s the warrant to search Arlo Technologies’ records for recordings on Collins’ security cameras.

It notes that O’Donnell said she’d last seen Collins May 28.  Arlo technical support told investigators that the Collins’ account had last been logged into at 3:46 a.m. May 29. Arlo said there were eight cameras in the system, with four labeled for the front door, front garage, front house and back house.  The warrant to Arlo, according to a return, produced a thumb drive with “numerous surveillance videos.” A warrant for Collins’ Google account was expected to produce information about access to the security system.

An affidavit for a warrant for Collins’ Apple account information included this:

O’Donnell was arrested June 14 while driving with Loggains to a memorial service for Collins.

On June 27, investigators sought a warrant to search O’Donnell’s home in Biggers. This is the affidavit mentions O’Donnell’s conflicting statements about when she’d been to Collins’ home. By then, O’Donnell also had told investigators she had forged Collin’s signature numerous times while writing checks on Collins’ account. Investigators hoped to find bank records at O’Donnell’s home. They also thought they might find security cameras from Collins’ home. O’Donnell told them that Loggains, with whom she lived, had removed them because they weren’t functioning properly and Collins wanted to return them to Best Buy, though there’s no evidence that happened. They also were looking for other evidence of the slaying, perhaps blood.

In the search, officers took a pair of shorts, a “homicide case study review” and a 2005 Honda Civic.

A subsequent affidavit for a warrant for phone records of Tim Loggains notes that when O’Donnell was arrested while driving with Loggains to the memorial service, a white purse similar to the one seen in the security video was found in the car. Officers also observed a possible bloodstain in the vehicle, a GMC pickup. A warrant was later obtained to search it and investigators took various objects, including a purse and swabs of reddish-brown stains.

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This affidavit notes problems for O’Donnell. She said she’d lost her Verizon phone on June 4, but records showed it had been used June 5. She bought a new iPhone on June 6.

The evidence mounts, according to the affidavit:

Then this:

The passage photographed above concludes: “Smith was murdered”

For the record: Loggains had originally professed his belief in O’Donnell’s innocence and was quoted as being shocked by her guilty plea. He has not been charged or identified by law enforcement as a suspect in the case.

Searching continued in July, with a warrant issued for the search of O’Donnell’s Honda Civic, which was seen on the May 28 video at Collins’ home.

The return of this warrant is not currently listed in the court record, along with many more warrant affidavits and returns to come.

The Randolph Circuit Court clerk is posting the material as she is able, so expect more details in the days ahead. Though it’s referenced in one of the documents cited earlier, the full affidavit for O’Donnell’s arrest is among the documents not yet placed in the online circuit court record.

Special Circuit Judge John Fogleman ordered the previously sealed material to be placed in the court file at the conclusion of O’Donnell’s case. But he said it would likely take time for the clerk to process the voluminous records.