Philip Smith, the ex-husband of former, now deceased Arkansas lawmaker Linda Collins-Smith, is a retired controversial judge who agreed to not serve on the bench anymore.
Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, a former campaign worker for Collins-Smith, has been accused of committing the murder of Linda Collins-Smith. The motive is not yet clear. You can read more about O’Donnell here.
Arkansas State Police are confirming a death at the home of Collins-Smith. Although police say they haven’t confirmed the victim’s identity yet, both the governor and the state GOP have offered tributes to Collins-Smith that refer to her death. A staunch Republican, Collins-Smith served as state senator for District 19 from 2015 through 2019 and previously served in Arkansas’ House. Her former press secretary says she was the victim of homicide and that her body was found wrapped in a blanket, and she suffered gunshot wounds. Police have not announced any suspects. Court records involving a gag order into the case later confirmed that Collins-Smith was the person who died.
That all has some people wondering more about Collins-Smith’s family, including her former husband, Philip Smith, a retired circuit judge.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Philip Smith & Linda Collins-Smith Had a Bitter Divorce & Testimony in it Led to a Reprimand Against Her Husband, Reports Say
Linda Collins-Smith’s website still presents her as married. Linda and her “husband, children, and grandchildren attend the Sutton Free Will Baptist Church in Pocahontas,” the site says, describing Linda Collins-Smith as a realtor, “businesswoman, an entrepreneur, and a community leader. She and her family own and operate lodging businesses in Pocahontas.”
However, according to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the couple separated in 2016 and filed for divorce a year after that. The home where Collins-Smith’s body was found is also owned by her ex-husband, described by the newspaper as “Philip Smith, a retired judge whose district covered Randolph County.”
The couple separated in 2016 before filing for divorce the following year, according to court records.
The newspaper alleges that the divorce was considered “bitter” and involved disagreements over property and money. The divorce was finalized in 2018.
The divorce led to employment-related problems for Philip Smith. The retired judge was reprimanded by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, the Arkansas Times reported in February 2019.
The already retired judge, who left the bench in 2017, “agreed not to serve in the judiciary in the future, including by temporary assignment,” the newspaper reported, adding that the complaint “arose from testimony” he provided during his divorce from Collins-Smith. He was accused of using office “computer equipment after hours for ‘extrajudicial activities'” that were not specified, according to The Arkansas Times.
You can read the press release announcing the reprimand here. It alleges that Smith admitted “under oath, during divorce litigation…that you improperly used court computer equipment after regular work hours at the office.” The release continues that the “conduct has rendered you ineligible to hold public trust as a judge.”
2. Philip Smith Was Appointed to the Arkansas Bench by Former Gov. Mike Huckabee
According to Ballotpedia, Phil Smith served as the Division 2 judge of the Third Circuit of Arkansas. He was appointed to the bench by Governor Mike Huckabee in 2001, and later elected to the post several times.
A 2001 profile in Areawide Media reported that Smith “practiced law for 22 years, having earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1979.”
Before becoming a circuit judge, Philip Smith served as a municipal judge, Ballotpedia reports.
3. Smith Is an Army Veteran Whose Dad Was a Baptist Minister & Tributes Have Poured in for Linda Collins-Smith
The Areawide Media profile described Philip Smith as an U.S. Army veteran, serving from 1972 to 1975.
He has long ties to Pocahontas, Arkansas, where his dad was a dime store manager and later a Baptist minister, the site reported.
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.”
Various politicians, including the governor, and the state GOP, have also offered tributes. “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.”
4. Philip Smith Was Once Allegedly Assaulted at a Grocery Store
Philip Smith has been in the news before in a bizarre ways. In 2018, for example, he was allegedly assaulted in a grocery store.
According to NEA Report, a man was accused of ramming his shoulder into Smith during what started as a verbal dispute.
As for his ex-wife’s death, the Arkansas State Police, which is handling the case, has said very little. “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),” a press 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.”
5. Smith Once Worked as a Journalist & Ran a Hotel With His Wife
According to the Areawide Media story, Phil Smith once worked as a journalist. That career was fairly short-lived, though.
He worked for the Jonesboro Sun and Arkansas Democrat, positions he held while in college and after leaving the Army, the site reported, adding, “He and his wife own and operate the Days Inn and Suites in Pocahontas.”
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.”
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 grew up in the rural Arkansas Ozarks, according to her website.