Suspect in killing of former Arkansas state senator accused in murder-for-hire plot
LITTLE ROCK — The already bizarre murder case of a former Arkansas State Senator now has a new plot twist Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 49, once an aide to Collins-Smith and an employee at the former senator’s business, was charged with capital murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence after Collins-Smith was found dead at her home in Pocahontas, some 145 miles northeast of Little Rock, on June 4.
Now, prosecutors allege O’Donnell wanted to hire someone to kill Collins- Smith’s ex-husband and his new wife while in jail. The new charges were filed Tuesday against O’Donnell based on testimony of jailhouse informants, including two felony counts of solicitation to commit capital murder and two misdemeanor counts of solicitation to commit tampering with physical evidence while in custody of the Jackson County Jail, according to court documents.
O’Donnell allegedly told the women she tried to solicit that the murder of Phil Smith had to occur in his home and that the homicide needed to be staged as a suicide, according to the probable cause affidavit.
The women also were told they would be paid with the stash of gold and silver that Smith, a former state judge, had in his home, authorities said. In addition, investigators have alleged O’Donnell wanted to have her former prosecutor, Henry Boyce, killed, as well as the former judge presiding in her homicide case, Harold Erwin.
On Oct. 24, inmate Shana Hembrey told Jackson County Det.
Adam Zitzelberger that O’Donnell attempted to hire herself and fellow inmate Cassandra Geoffrion to kill Smith.
Hembrey also told Zitzelberger that O’Donnell wanted Hembrey and Geoffrion to blow up her vehicle in order to destroy any evidence that may be inside.
During a follow-up interview on Nov. 7, Hembrey told poilce that O’Donnell also wanted them to kill Smith’s new wife, Mary Smith. Former inmate Rebecca Landrum, who was held on one count of felony theft, also told law enforcement that O’Donnell approached her multiple times while she was in jail, telling Landrum she wanted her to kill the original judge overseeing O’Donnell’s capital murder trial, Erwin, and the first prosecutor, Boyce.
Both Boyce and Erwin have since withdrawn from the case because of conflicts.
Landrum told investigators that gold and silver inside Smith’s home that would serve as payment had been appraised by Collins-Smith to be worth anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 during the couple’s divorce.
The case has been strange from the start, with officials refusing to reveal even the most elementary information connected to it and slapping an unprecedented gag order and seal on the vast majority of records associated with the probe. O’Donnell is facing the death penalty if convicted of killing Collins-Smith.
She is being held without bond on the original charges. An arraignment on the new charges has not been scheduled.
Ten arrested in Middle Tennessee human trafficking ring
SPRING HILL, Tenn. — An undercover operation by Special Agents with the TBI Human Trafficking Unit and detectives with the Spring Hill Police Department has resulted in the arrest of several men, including three who are charged with solicitation of a minor.
Over a two-day period beginning Jan. 9, as part of an undercover investigation aimed at addressing human trafficking in Spring Hill, authorities placed several decoy advertisements on websites known to be linked to commercial sex.
The focus of the operation was to identify individuals seeking to engage in commercial sex acts with minors and adults. As a result of the operation, detectives and Agents arrested 10 men and booked them into the Maury County Jail.
Those participating in the operation included the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Spring Hill Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Office of 22nd District Attorney General Brent Cooper.