EXCLUSIVE: Husband of murdered ex-Arkansas state senator demanded she be jailed for ‘hiding assets’ during divorce – as the friend charged with her murder is accused of ‘stealing her own mother’s $160K retirement fund’
The husband of murdered politician Linda Collins demanded she should be jailed less than six months before the former Arkansas state senator was killed, DailyMail.com can reveal.
But the judge in the couple’s bitter divorce battle spared the Democrat-turned-Republican time behind bars because there was no prison officer in the court who could transport her to the lock-up.
Judge Ellen Brantley made an order that officers should be present at future hearings in the contentious case between Collins and husband, retired judge Philip Smith.
Collins’ badly decomposed body was found wrapped in a blanket outside her single-story home in Pocahontas, Arkansas, on June 4.
Becky O’Donnell, 48, a friend who had worked on her campaigns and who gave evidence for her in the divorce, has been charged with murder and abusing her body. She faces a possible death penalty if convicted.
It has also been revealed that O’Donnell was fired from a job for stealing and that her own sister alleges she ripped her family off for hundreds of thousands of dollars, calling her ‘a piece of s**t.’
Judge Philip Smith (left) demanded his estranged wife Linda Collins (right) be jailed for contempt of court over allegedly hiding assets during their divorce. Collins was granted a divorce from Smith last October, but battles over their $1M assets were continuing right up to her death on June 4 in Pocahontas, Arkansas
Becky O’Donnell, 48, a friend who had worked on Collins’ campaigns and who gave evidence for her in the divorce, has been charged with murder and abusing her body. She faces a possible death penalty if convicted
Prosecutors in Pocahontas are keeping a tight lid on all information concerning the case and won’t even say how Collins, 57, was killed, although initial reports said she had been shot.
They say it is the only way to ensure a fair trial. A judge sealed all records just three days after Collins’ body was discovered and before O’Donnell was arrested.
That has led to intense speculation in the town of nearly 7,000 people. Were O’Donnell and Collins involved in a love triangle? Were they lovers themselves? Was O’Donnell somehow involved in Collins’ complicated and unraveling finances?
O’Donnell was arrested as she and her boyfriend Tim Loggains — who at one stage had power of attorney over Collins’ finances — were on their way to a visitation of the murdered woman’s body.
Loggains was questioned but not arrested, according to NEA Report, a news service covering North East Arkansas.
O’Donnell changed her Facebook profile picture to one of her smiling alongside Collins on June 10 — six days after the body was found and four days before she was arrested.
Collins was granted a divorce from her husband of 12 years, retired judge Philip Smith, in October last year, but battles over their $1 million assets were continuing right up to her death. The couple had no children.
O’Donnell (left) was said to have been a former campaign staffer of Collins (right) and that the two women were friends. O’Donnell changed her Facebook profile picture to one of her smiling alongside Collins on June 10 — four days before she was arrested
O’Donnell was fired from a job for stealing and her own sister alleges she ripped her family off for hundreds of thousands of dollars, calling her ‘a piece of s**t’. O’Donnell appeared in court in Pocahontas on June 17 wearing a bulletproof vest over green-striped jail scrubs (pictured)
Smith who has now been barred from hearing any future cases after being accused of tampering with the record of his divorce, alleged his wife hid assets so he couldn’t get his hands on them and asked Judge Brantley to jail her for contempt of court.
Brantley said she found Collins’ behavior ‘difficult to understand,’ saying she had not been honest with the court or even her own lawyers. ‘The punishment available is to send (Collins) to jail,’ she wrote.
‘But the court does not believe such punishment would have any value at this time; further, the court does not have an officer available to escort (her) at this time.’
Efforts to reach Smith were unsuccessful. His last known address in Pocahontas now stands empty and his cellphone had a message saying it was ‘not accepting calls at this time.’ Messages left with his attorney Megan Wells were not returned. In court papers he said he was planning to emigrate to Panama.
Collins was known as Linda Collins-Smith during her two years in the state House of Representatives and four in the Senate, but dropped her husband’s name after their marriage broke up.
She was initially elected as a Democrat but changed parties eight months after taking office. In the Senate she authored a bill insisting transgender students must use school bathrooms of their birth gender. It failed to pass.
She lost her seat after was defeated in last year’s Republican primary.
In court papers she claimed that Smith, who turns 70 on Friday, had treated her ‘with such indignities and abuse’ that she deserved a divorce.
Collins (in 2015) was known as Linda Collins-Smith during her two years in the state House of Representatives and four in the Senate, but dropped her husband’s name after their marriage broke up
Collins’ badly decomposed body was found wrapped in a blanket outside her single-story home (pictured) in Pocahontas, Arkansas
But her husband claimed Collins, a former real estate agent who ran a 30-bedroom motel (left and right) in Pocahontas, hid money so he could not get his hands on it. Among his claims, he said she failed to deposit a $52,000 tax rebate check so he wouldn’t know she had the money
But her husband claimed Collins, a former real estate agent who ran a 30-bedroom motel in Pocahontas, deliberately hid money so he could not get his hands on it.
Among his claims, he said she failed to deposit a $52,000 tax rebate check for 10 months so he wouldn’t know she had the money. He said she had always looked after the couple’s finances because she was good at it.
But Judge Brantley disagreed, writing that she ‘remains mystified by how (Collins) runs her business’ after hearing testimony about the couple’s finances.
The court believes that (Collins) knows a great deal more about the parties’ finances than she has been willing to state,’ Judge Brantley wrote.
‘The court does not give a lot of credit to (her) testimony and does not believe (she) has been honest.’
O’Donnell is currently locked up without bail in Jackson County Jail in Newport, Arkansas, an hour from Pocahontas. She had escaped prosecution in 2014 for allegedly stealing a bag of designer jeans from Curvy, a plus-size consignment shop in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where she worked.
Store manager Melissa French-Smith told DailyMail.com that she fired O’Donnell in 2014 but decided not to press charges after another employee saw O’Donnell attempting to hide the bag near a dumpster.
O’Donnell (pictured) escaped prosecution in 2014 for allegedly stealing a bag of designer jeans from Curvy, a plus-size consignment shop in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where she worked
French-Smith said she had been friendly with O’Donnell’s elder sister Shelley Schoeneman, in Pocahontas High School and they had met up after several years at a school reunion.
O’Donnell wanted a job and she agreed to take her on at $10 an hour, she said.
‘But of course I was shocked when I heard she’d been arrested for murder,’ said French-Smith. ‘There’s a lot of difference between theft and murder.’
After she fired O’Donnell, she said she received a Facebook message from Schoeneman, saying: ‘I wish you would’ve pressed charges against my sister. In the last 6 months I have found out that she has stolen from so many people and only one person went after her. She stole all my moms retirement money…about $160k.’
In a later message Schoeneman added: ‘She has stolen from ex boyfriends and she also opened up credit cards in her kids names and maxed them out and never paid the bills, ruining their credit. She is a piece of s**t. I haven’t spoken to her in over a year.’
Attempts to reach Schoeneman were unsuccessful.
O’Donnell appeared in court in Pocahontas on June 17 wearing a bulletproof vest over green-striped jail scrubs.
Ken Yang, a former spokesman for Collins, said her family was ‘sickened and upset that someone so close to Linda would be involved in such a terrible, heartless crime.’
She is next due in court on July 30.