‘Dateline NBC‘ is a long-running reality legal TV series that intensively documents some of the most startling true crime incidents and their investigations. One such case described in the episode titled ‘The Hands of a Killer’ narrates the harrowing details of the 2019 murder of former Arkansas state senator Linda Collins by her close friend and political aide Rebecca O’Donnell. As more information unraveled about the case, Rebecca’s unexpected involvement became clearer. So now, let’s find out more about her, shall we?
Who is Rebecca O’Donnell?
Rebecca “Becky” Lynn O’Donnell is a native of Pocahontas, Arkansas, and was an employee of the politician Linda Collins. She had helped Linda in her 2014 and 2018 campaigns and was also a witness in her divorce proceedings with former husband Philip Smith and testified about the couple’s separation. Besides this, Rebecca’s long-time partner, Tim Loggains, was Linda’s power of attorney in the case.
More than associates, both Rebecca and Linda were best friends who knew everything about each other. In an August 2020 interview, close friends of the two shared, “They were inseparable…If you ever wanted to know what was going on with Linda, you could ask Becky. And vice versa. They did everything together, and they were close confidantes. They called each other ‘sisters,’ even though they weren’t blood relations.”
On June 4, 2019, 57-year-old Linda was found dead outside her home by her father and son Butch Smith, who had come to check on her. Her body was in a decomposed state under a tarp in her driveway, facing upside down and wrapped in an old comforter. Initially, Linda was reported to have died of a gunshot wound, but later examination revealed that the cause of death was multiple stab wounds and that the body had been moved from the house to the driveway. Rebecca was arrested in connection to the murder on June 14, 2019, while she was driving to Linda’s memorial service.
According to surveillance footage, the former had allegedly been recorded removing surveillance cameras inside the residence, which was crucial evidence in arresting her. In addition, Rebecca was the last to see Linda alive on May 28, 2019, when the two women went out for lunch. She was held without bond with charges of capital murder, tampering with physical evidence, and abuse of a corpse. On July 30, 2019, Rebecca pleaded not guilty to all the charges during her arraignment, and prosecutors announced that they were seeking the death penalty for her.
The investigation took a new turn on January 14, 2020, when Rebecca was charged with two counts of solicitation to commit capital murder and solicitation to commit tampering with physical evidence. According to the probable cause affidavit filed, she had attempted to hire several inmates in the Jackson County prison to murder Linda’s former husband Philip and make it look like a suicide. As per reports, Rebecca had allegedly ordered them to kill Judge Harold Erwin and the case’s prosecutor, Henry Boyce. Philip’s second wife Mary was another person whom she seemingly ordered a hit on, according to ABC News.
The affidavit further stated that she had also asked the inmates to go to Randolph County Jail and destroy her car that held evidence. She reportedly told inmates that she would compensate with a bag of gold and silver coins in Philip’s house. Rebecca also claimed that she maintained the books for Linda’s motel in Pocahontas and that the prosecutors were trying to frame her for money laundering, based on an accusation made by Linda’s father. Later, she allegedly threatened to get a few inmates killed if they did not comply.
Not just that, online evidence proved that Rebecca had taken Philip’s gold and silver coins from Linda’s home and sold them in Little Rock and Memphis for $15,110 in three transactions in 2018. A deeper investigation revealed that Rebecca had allegedly told the inmates that Linda had been stabbed 16 times. She also claimed that the investigators had a video of her standing with a bloody knife over the body and buying bleach. Upon being questioned, she denied this claim and stated that the knife was for the chicken she had cooked for Linda, and the video had been “doctored” to frame her.
Where is Rebecca O’Donnell Now?
On August 6, 2020, Rebecca accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to the charges of murder, tampering with physical evidence, and abuse of a corpse. “I went to Linda’s house and I intentionally killed her and then hid the body,” she told the judge. She pleaded no contest to the counts of solicitation to commit capital murder and two counts of solicitation to commit tampering with physical evidence.
Rebecca was sentenced to a total of 50 years in prison. She was initially held at the McPherson Unit Prison in Newport, Arkansas, but was transferred to an undisclosed out-of-state agency in October 2020 for security reasons. Since the move was made for safety purposes, it is not known where she is indicted presently. Regardless, it is confirmed that she is currently serving her sentence and shall not be released from prison before at least 2070.
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