State Senator's Killer Didn't Delete All Footage of Crime

Rebecca O'Donnell serving 50 years for murder of Linda Collins-Smith in Arkansas
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2022 7:57 AM CDT
State Senator's Killer Didn't Delete All Footage of Crime
In this Jan. 28, 2015, file photo, Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, listens to testimony at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark.   (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

When Butch Smith found his mother's body under a tarp in her driveway in June 2019, one of his first thoughts—beyond the shock and horror of the whole thing—was that his father must have killed her. Former two-term Arkansas state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith was in the midst of a divorce battle with husband of 20 years, Philip Smith, over some $2 million in assets. Butch Smith's sister agreed, as the pair tell 20/20 in a special airing at 9pm ET Friday, per ABC News. "You always think of who has the most to gain," says Tate Williams. "With the divorce being disputed, I said, 'You know, it was my dad.'" The siblings were way off, though the real killer would attempt to seize on their suspicions.

Arrested on charges of capital murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence less than two weeks after the body was found, Collins-Smith's former campaign aide and close friend Rebecca O'Donnell claimed Philip Smith was the true killer and that she'd been set up. It was a lie. Though surveillance cameras placed around Collins-Smith's home had been taken from the scene, investigators determined some footage had been successfully uploaded to the cloud, including footage of O'Donnell messing with the cameras while holding a bloody knife, per ABC and the Arkansas Times. Still, while held in jail, O'Donnell tried to recruit inmates in a plot to kill Philip Smith and frame him for his wife's murder, prosecutors said, per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

By August 2020, however, O'Donnell pleaded guilty to stabbing Collins-Smith in her own home. Butch Smith tells ABC he'd spotted a stain on the kitchen floor before finding his mother's body, one that looked as if "somebody had dropped a coffee pot and it had sprayed out." It was in fact blood. Detectives also found a bottle of Clorox with blood smeared across the top, per KLRT. O'Donnell admitted "I went to Linda's house and I intentionally killed her, and then hid the body." She offered no motive, though prosecutors suggested it had to do with money, as O'Donnell had allegedly forged her friend's signature on checks. She is serving a 50-year prison sentence. Philip Smith tells ABC that he's "grateful that justice has been done" and now wishes "to be left in peace." (More murder stories.)

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