NEW DETAILS: Rebecca O’Donnell, a bloody knife and a chicken

Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 4:11 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Newly obtained Arkansas State Police reports paint a portrait of a “frantic and out of control” Rebecca O’Donnell plotting the murders of a judge, a prosecutor, and a jail inmate all while maintaining her innocence in the death of her “best friend” Linda Collins.

On Aug. 6, O’Donnell pleaded guilty to murdering the former Arkansas state senator.

“I intentionally killed her and then hid the body,” O’Donnell said during the hearing.

She also pleaded “no contest” to two counts of solicitation to commit capital murder in Jackson County and was sentenced to a total of 50 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

In a 313-page investigative file from those Jackson County charges, many new details were revealed about the case.

The files show O’Donnell denied killing Collins to inmates while plotting with them to kill Collins’ ex-husband and the prosecutor in her case.

When one Jackson County inmate refused to go along with her plans, according to the reports, she asked another inmate to kill the woman.

Caught on Camera

O’Donnell was caught on camera with a bloody knife in Linda Collins’s home, according to the interviews with inmates associated with the case.

Agent Mike McNeil interviewed Cassandra Geoffrion on Nov. 7, 2019.

O’Donnell, according to Geoffrion, told her that “there is video of her buying bleach and a video of her holding a knife with blood on her while standing over the body of Linda Collins.”

O’Donnell tried to explain that video.

She claimed that Linda had been traveling when O’Donnell picked her up from the airport.

O’Donnell said she made “Linda chicken and had cut up the chicken.” She then claimed that law enforcement “made the video look like she was covered in blood.”

During conversations with another inmate, it was revealed that O’Donnell claimed Linda had been stabbed 16 times. It’s important to note, investigators have not released that information, yet. Region 8 News has requested the full case file on the murder investigation. It’s still being processed and has not been closed and released.

O’Donnell apparently tried to remove the cameras after the murder.

“O’Donnell stated that ‘they’ had removed cameras from Linda’s residence after Linda had been found murdered.”

She said they were returned because they weren’t working right, the investigative file noted.

Former St. Sen. Linda Collins-Smith was found dead. (Source: KAIT)
Former St. Sen. Linda Collins-Smith was found dead. (Source: KAIT)((Source: KAIT))

“Kill him, but make it look like a suicide”

On Oct. 24, 2019, Shana Hembrey was locked up in the Jackson County Detention Center waiting to be transferred to the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

That day she asked to speak with a sheriff’s investigator.

According to Investigator Adam Zitzelberger’s investigation report, Hembrey asked him if she could be bonded out.

He told her she had already been sentenced and was awaiting ADC, she could not. Zitzelberger then asked her why she wanted to be bonded out.

“Ms. Hembrey stated that it was because she wanted to see her family,” Zitzelberger stated.

Hembrey also reportedly told him she feared for her life if O’Donnell found out she was talking to investigators.

“She then pulled out two pieces of paper and stated that Ms. O’Donnell was trying to hire her to kill Mr. Phil Smith and Mr. Henry Boyce, or blackmail Mr. Boyce,” Zitzelberger said.

Hembrey claimed O’Donnell had asked her and another inmate, Cassandra Geoffrian, to commit the acts by Halloween. She wanted the women to be in costume, and to leave behind a “suicide note.”

“O’Donnell told her to kill Mr. Smith and make it look like a suicide,” the report stated.

Once the murders were committed, Hembrey said O’Donnell wanted her to go to the Randolph County Jail and blow up her vehicle to destroy evidence inside of it.

If that weren’t enough, Hembrey claimed O’Donnell wanted to get someone to hack into the Randolph County Jail’s computers and plant a virus.

She also wanted someone to hack into Collins’ security system to erase any evidence that it might contain.

“Doctored” video of a bloody knife

During her 40-day stay in the Jackson County Detention Center, Rebecca Landrum told ASP investigators she came into “regular contact” with O’Donnell.

She claimed the murder suspect approached her on several occasions, asking her to kill Phil Smith, Judge Harold Erwin, and Henry Boyce.

O’Donnell claimed that Smith “had set her up” and made allegations of criminal activity.

She said there was video of her holding a bloody knife but claimed it had been “doctored.”

By killing Smith, O’Donnell believed the charges against her would be dropped.

She also wanted Landrum to “make evidence disappear.”

O’Donnell reportedly told Landrum to kill Smith at his home in Mammoth Spring while his wife was away. But not to do it on the weekend “because that is when he gets his grandkids.”

She told Landrum she would compensate her with a “bag of gold and silver” from Smith’s home.

She told Landrum that law enforcement was trying to prove that she was laundering money from the hotel Smith and Collins owned in Pocahontas, adding that Collins’s dad had accused her of stealing.

But O’Donnell claimed Collins had not had any income since January and she was taking the money out of the hotel to pay Linda’s bills.

Landrum told investigators O’Donnell asked two more inmates to carry out the killing of Smith.

Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell was arrested in connection with the murder of former State Senator Linda...
Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell was arrested in connection with the murder of former State Senator Linda Collins.(Randolph Co. Sheriff's Office)

“Make people go away”

When it became apparent to O’Donnell that Rebecca Landrum would not carry out her plan to kill Smith, investigators say she asked another Jackson County inmate to carry out the plot and kill Rebecca Landrum to keep her quiet.

Cassandra Geoffrion told investigators O’Donnell wanted her to kill Smith and “make it look like a suicide.”

She claimed O’Donnell gave her a book titled “Liar” on Nov. 8, 2019, with a “suicide note” written on a blank page.

The note was to be left beside Smith’s body after his murder.

O’Donnell claimed she would compensate Geoffrion with gold and silver from inside Smith’s home

“O’Donnell explained how she took gold and silver from Linda and sold it for approximately $15-18,000,” the report stated.

According to Leads Online, O’Donnell sold gold and silver coins to two businesses in Memphis and Little Rock on three different occasions.

Geoffrion said O’Donnell also talked to her about having Landrum killed.

“Ms. O’Donnell has realized that Ms. Landrum is not going to carry out her plan [to kill Phil Smith and destroy evidence] and therefore she needs to be killed so she doesn’t notify law enforcement,” the interview stated.

Another inmate, Amber Boyd, said O’Donnell also asked her to kill Landrum.

According to the ASP records, O’Donnell asked if she could “make people go away.”

When Boyd told her she could not, O’Donnell then asked if she could find someone who could.

Boyd was “unclear” as to why O’Donnell wanted Landrum killed; however, Boyd did hear about “a plan” and that O’Donnell “wanted somebody good with computers and wanted evidence destroyed and something happening to the senator’s ex-husband, the judge.”

She also claimed O’Donnell told her that Linda Collins was her “best friend and she didn’t kill her.”

“Frantic and out of control”

On Nov. 14, Shana Hembrey stated in a letter to detention staff that she had awakened to O’Donnell standing over her and accusing her of telling investigators about her plan to kill Smith.

Hembrey described O’Donnell as “frantic and out of control.”

O’Donnell told Hembrey that Rebecca Landrum had been talking to ASP and begged her to not say anything to them.

Hembrey claimed O’Donnell said, “If anyone found out about it, she would be in bigger trouble.”

She added that O’Donnell was trying to “put together a plan for something to happen to Henry Boyce,” the prosecutor.

In addition to Rebecca Landrum, Hembrey told investigators that O’Donnell was trying to get someone in the jail to kill Amanda Hobson because she might have overheard some of O’Donnell’s conversations.

“O’Donnell stated she thought about suffocating Ms. Hobson in her sleep,” Investigator Adam Zitzelberger stated in his report.

Although she told Amber Boyd that Collins was her “best friend,” Hembrey said O’Donnell referred to the former senator as a “diva.”

ASP noted “diva” was the same term O’Donnell used to describe Collins in her first interview with law enforcement.

KAIT spoke with two people who worked with Collins about her legacy.
KAIT spoke with two people who worked with Collins about her legacy.(Ken Yang, Spokesman for the family of Linda Collins)

Silver and Gold Coins

While being investigated about his wife’s murder, Phillip Smith told ASP investigators on Nov. 8, 2019, that approximately $25,000 in gold and silver coins was missing from Collins’s home.

When he went to retrieve the box they were in Smith said it “wasn’t anywhere to be found.”

“But, those people knew about that,” Smith said of O’Donnell and her fiancé Tim Loggains. “They knew that that money was there. And that those coins were there, and that Linda had done something.”

Smith added that Collins told him she couldn’t find the coins, either.

The newly released reports show that on Sept. 25, 2018, O’Donnell took a trip to Little Rock where Leads Online showed she sold 22 gold coins and two rings to Gold & Diamond Prospectors for $3,000. The transaction ticket included a photograph of her driver’s license, as well as the merchandise she sold.

On Oct. 18, 2018, O’Donnell sold $4,590 worth of coins to Memphis Gold Buyers.

A month later, on Nov. 16, she returned to Memphis and sold the store another $7,520 in silver and gold coins.

The total amount for all three transactions, according to the investigative records, totaled $15,110.

O’Donnell’s Time Behind Bars

In between plotting Smith’s and Landrum’s murders, O’Donnell claimed she was victimized herself.

In a statement filed on Aug. 27, 2019, she claimed that several commissary items had been stolen from her cell, including a package of ramen noodles, coffee, and candy bars.

In the statement, O’Donnell said if the alleged thieves had confessed “I would have forgiven and forgotten but they aren’t confessing, so something needs to be done.”

Copyright 2020 KAIT. All rights reserved.