Rebecca O'Donnell

Rebecca O'Donnell appears at a court hearing in 2019. She has pleaded guilty to killing her friend and former Arkansas senator Rebecca O'Donnell (Photo courtesy of KAIT Region 8 News)

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — Rebecca O'Donnell, who was arrested last year on suspicion of killing former Arkansas state Sen. Linda Collins, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse on Thursday.

O'Donnell accepted a plea deal in the stabbing death of Collins in Randolph County court.

"I went to Linda's house and I intentionally killed her and then hid the body," O'Donnell told the judge.

Collins was found dead at her home in Pocahontas on June 4. O'Donnell, who worked for Collins, was arrested 10 days later. She was sentenced to 40 years for first-degree murder and 3 years for abuse of a corpse in Randolph County.

"The last memory of her that I have was of me making the 911 call and trying not to vomit all over at the sight and smell of my mother's body," he said in the statement. "The plea deal is not what my first choice would have been, but at least we have a guaranteed amount of time that she will be imprisoned for."

He said his family will argue against her release at her parole hearings.

"Today our family has found swift justice by way of a plea deal," Collins' daughter said in a separate statement. "No amount of punishment will ever fill that void that Rebecca O'Donnell made in our lives the day she killed our mother. Today we find some shred of peace that O'Donnell will be put away in prison for a very long time, unable to hurt anyone else."

Both siblings thanked local law enforcement and the Arkansas State Police for their work on the investigation.

On Thursday, O'Donnell also pleaded "No Contest" to two counts of solicitation to commit capital murder in Jackson County. She was accused of trying to hire fellow inmates to kill Collins' ex-husband and frame it as a suicide, according to an affidavit.

Prosecutors for the state said on Thursday they have video evidence from inside the Jackson County jail of O'Donnell passing a note to an inmate. The note reportedly contained instructions on what the suicide note should say. The FBI confirmed that it was O'Donnell's handwriting. She was sentenced to 7 years for each one of the solicitation to commit capital murder charges, the sentences will run concurrently.

Collins was a Republican state representative from 2011-2013 and served in the state senate from 2015-2019.

Previously, O'Donnell pleaded not guilty to capital murder, tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse. But the state amended the charge on Thursday to first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

O'Donnell will serve a total of 50 years in prison and she will be eligible for parole.


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