New prosecutor selected in Linda Collins murder case

New judge assigned to Linda Collins murder case, as questions over detention emerge

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A longtime prosecutor from south Arkansas has been named the prosecutor in the murder trial of Rebecca O’Donnell.

Robert Dittrich of Stuttgart, who was the elected prosecuting attorney in the 11th-East District for 34 years, was assigned the case Friday in an order.

Dittrich did not seek re-election in 2018 and has worked as a deputy prosecutor in Pine Bluff since then. In a brief interview, Dittrich said he also plans to retire as a prosecutor in Pine Bluff on Dec. 31.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has also assigned a new judge to oversee the murder trial of O’Donnell.

The state’s highest court in November assigned Second Judicial Circuit Judge John Fogleman to preside over the case, according to records received through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Region 8 News.

He replaces Judge David Goodson, who was assigned as the special judge overseeing the case.

According to the court records, Goodson requested on Tuesday, Nov. 26, his assignment to the case be terminated.

Chief Justice John Dan Kemp signed the order that same day and assigned Fogleman to hear State of Arkansas v. Rebecca O’Donnell.

O’Donnell is charged with capital murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with physical evidence in the death of former State Senator Linda Collins.

Also, on Wednesday, ABC News reported that jailers had placed O’Donnell under the strictest detention protocols even though officials said she has been a model prisoner since her arrest.

“The family was informed Becky had been placed on ‘investigative status’ and was not allowed visits, phone calls or any contact with prisoners or anyone else except for her attorneys,” Tim Loggains, her fiance, told ABC News. “We, the family, had been trying to reach Becky and assumed the phones were not working or there was technical issues with the machinery. There was no reason given for this ‘investigative status.’ In fact, we were told that Becky had violated no jail rules.”

The restrictions took effect Nov. 18, ABC News reported, noted Goodson had denied a motion by them to have the restrictions either lifted or modified to “learn why O’Donnell was charged and what type of evidence connects her to the death of Collins-Smith.”

Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas told ABC that the Arkansas State Police had requested the administrative lockdown on O’Donnell, which includes restricting visits.

ASP spokesman Bill Sadler told ABC that ASP “has no jurisdiction to dictate to a local sheriff the conditions under which an inmate is held. I’m telling you the Arkansas State Police has no authority to issue such an order.”

However, Sadler later told ABC News that ASP did contact the jail to suggest that staff consider placing O’Donnell under no-contact restrictions due to the violent nature of the case.

Her pre-trial date is set for Feb. 28. Her trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 19, 2020.

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