Former state Senator Linda Collins-Smith, a staunch Republican, realtor and businesswoman, was found murdered at her home in Arkansas, police have confirmed.
Tributes have flooded in for Collins-Smith, including from the governor and state GOP, which referred to her “untimely death.”
Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, a former campaign worker for Collins-Smith, has now been accused of committing the murder. The motive is not yet clear. You can read more about O’Donnell here.
The Arkansas State Police have now confirmed that Collins-Smith was the victim. “The Arkansas State Police has received confirmation this morning from the state medical examiner that the remains discovered at a homicide scene in Randolph County late Tuesday (June 4, 2019) are those of former state senator, Linda Collins-Smith,” a release said.
On social media, Collins Smith was a pro-gun rights advocate and self-described Christian conservative. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, she was a Republican senator for District 19 from 2015 through 2019 and previously served in Arkansas’ House.
“I’m both stunned and saddened by the death of former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith. She was a good person who served in the public arena with passion and conviction,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted. “The First Lady and I extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this difficult time.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Collins-Smith’s Former Press Secretary Says She Died From a Gunshot Wound
Although police haven’t released a cause of death, Collins-Smith’s former press secretary Ken Yang told the media she was dead from a gunshot wound. He alleged the body was found wrapped in a blanket a day or two after neighbors heard gunshots. No suspect is in custody. Her death was also confirmed by a gag order a judge issued into the case.
According to KAIT-TV, the body was discovered at former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith’s Pocahontas home.
The initial police press release, sent to Heavy by Bill Sadler, Arkansas State Police Public Information Officer, doesn’t go that far.
“The Arkansas State Police was contacted late yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, June 5, 2019), and requested to provide investigative assistance at a residence in Pocahontas (Randolph County). The location was identified as 4023 Arkansas Highway 90 (West),” the release says.
“Special Agents of the department’s Criminal Investigation Division were met at the location by Randolph County Sheriff’s Department personnel who reported individuals, familiar with the person who resided at the home, had discovered human remains outside the home.”
According to police, the state medical examiner was working to confirm “with certainty the identity of the human remains. A manner and cause of death will be determined by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory.”
The release notes: “The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division has been requested by the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department to be the lead investigative agency in what is currently being handled as a homicide investigation.”
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that the body was found outside her home, though, contradicting some other reports.
2. The Arkansas GOP Remembered Collins-Smith for her ‘Passionate Voice’ & Other Politicians Have Also Offered Tributes
Former colleagues reacted to news of Linda Collins-Smith’s possible tragic death with tributes.
“Today, we learned of the untimely death of former Senator Linda Collins Smith,” wrote the Arkansas GOP on Twitter. “She was a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family. We are praying for her loved ones during this difficult time.”
Politicians also praised Collins-Smith.
“I’m saddened to learn of Linda Collins-Smith’s untimely passing. This tragedy is a shock to her community and our entire state. I am praying her loved ones and all those mourning her find peace and comfort in this difficult time. We are grateful for her service to Arkansans,” Senator John Boozman wrote.
“I’m saddened to hear about the death of former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith. She always worked hard for her constituents and I ask you keep her family and her friends in your prayers as they mourn her passing,” wrote Rep. Rick Crawford.
3. Collins-Smith Described Herself as a Pro-Life & Pro-Gun Christian Conservative
On her Twitter page, Collins-Smith described herself this way, “91st, 90st, House 88th. Christian Conservative; Pro-Life, Business, Family, Guns, Veterans, Better Education & Patriot. Love God, Family and Country!”
She shared pro gun rights posts, such as this one, and her website bio says, “She is a lifetime member of the NRA and founding member of the Friends of the NRA in Hardy.”
Her last tweet came May 27. It was a share of a post about the Arkansas Country Music Awards. On May 26, she wrote on Twitter, “Floodwaters reach homes in Fort Smith; 100-200 people flee as Arkansas River rises.”
That same day she retweeted a post that read, “On Thursday evening, President Trump signed a memorandum that will finally enforce a 23-year-old provision requiring sponsors of legal immigrants to reimburse the government for any social services the immigrant uses in the United States.”
She was a fan of President Trump, writing: “proud to see people having a good time with family and friends and showing patriotic pride! #MAGA #POTUS thank you! #HappyIndependenceDay #HappyFourthOfJuly Let’s keep it up & don’t allow people to take us down! Pray for our Pres. @realDonaldTrump & next @Scotus nomination!”
4. Collins-Smith Worked as a Real Estate Agent in Addition to Her Political Career
Collins-Smith’s website makes her conservative ideals clear.
“Linda Collins-Smith served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2010 to 2012, representing Randolph and Sharp counties,” her website explains. “While in the legislature, she served on the following committees: Revenue and Taxation; City, County, and Local; and Energy. She also served as the Arkansas House Chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council.”
It continues: “Linda is a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, and a community leader. She and her family own and operate lodging businesses in Pocahontas. She has been a regional sales manager, a nationally recognized real estate agent, president of the Arkansas Lodging Association, and winner of statewide tourism awards. She has served on the Arkansas Ethics Commission and the Lower Mississippi Delta Development
According to the website, “Her experience in the business world has allowed her to understand first-hand the stifling effect of heavy taxation and government over-regulation on America’s small businesses.”
“She is a tireless advocate for conservative principles and traditional values. She believes in limited government, lower taxes, and ending burdensome regulations. She stands for a child’s right to life from conception, for religious freedom, for our Second Amendment rights, for individual liberty, and for greater personal responsibility.”
5. Collins-Smith Was Raised in the Arkansas Ozarks & Went Through a Difficult Divorce
The website bio says Collins-Smith is married. However, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported the home is owned by Collins-Smith and “her former husband, Philip Smith,” who “retired as a judge in the 3rd Judicial District, which includes Randolph County, in 2017.” Collins-Smith and her husband were divorced by 2018; his testimony during the divorce led to a reprimand and his agreement to no longer serve as a judge. You can read more about Philip Smith here.
The Smiths’ daughter-in-law wrote a heartbroken tribute to Linda Collins-Smith on Facebook. “This amazing woman is my mother-in-law, my children’s grandmommy, the love of my life mom. Linda Collins loved her family,” wrote Jennifer McKenzie-Smith on Facebook.
“Now, a monster has taken her away from us. My children can no longer make new memories with thier grandmommy, my husband doesn’t have his mom, I dont have my mother in law. This is the most hardest thing to go through, there are no words to describe the pain, and heartache.I want to Thank everyone for all the love, and support. She will be missed but never forgotten. Love you Grandmommy. #justiceforLinda.”
“Linda grew up in the rural Arkansas Ozarks,” the campaign website says. “She knows what it is like to carry water from the spring and cut her own firewood. Her background taught her the value of hard work, and the blessing of living in a land where everyone, from the poor country girl to the inner city street kid, had the opportunity to achieve their dreams through industry and determination. She has dedicated herself to the cause of restoring those opportunities to our children and grandchildren.”
Linda and her “husband, children, and grandchildren attend the Sutton Free Will Baptist Church in Pocahontas,” the site says.