The family of Linda Collins, the former state senator killed in her Pocahontas home in May 2019, has asked a judge in Pulaski County to prevent the release of portions of the investigative file in the successful prosecution of her killer, Rebecca O’Donnell.

Her son and daughter, Butch Smith and Heather Tate Williams, and former husband, Philip Smith, and her estate requested the restraining order late Monday. The case was assigned to Circuit Judge Cathy Compton.


The State Police are finishing redaction and compilation of voluminous records in the investigative file, which has been requested by multiple news organizations. The many search warrants in the case include details from her computers, cell phones, social media and Internet accounts.

O’Donnell, according to warrants already on file in the case, apparently had stolen precious metal from Collins, forged checks on her business account and killed Collins after she was confronted on May 28, 2019. State Police gathered key evidence from cloud storage of video from Collins’ home security camera, which showed O’Donnell with a bloody knife and Collins’ blood-stained purse. The motion says the State Police have phone records of the children and also Philip Smith’s computer.


It continues:

Upon information and belief, there are other various items of Linda Collins-Smith including laptops used for both personal and business purposes in the ASP’s possession.

Upon information and belief, the ASP will soon administratively close its investigation into the murder of Linda Collins-Smith, which will trigger its duty to make disclosures pursuant to valid requests made under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (the “FOrA”).

Upon information and belief, ASP has, to date, received at least seven (7) FOIA requests from various media outlets for the investigatory file.

ASP has advised Plaintiffs that said file contains more than twenty thousand pages of information, and, while Plaintiffs are uncertain of what exactly is contained in the investigatory file as the ASP has not allowed them to inspect said file, Plaintiffs do know that it contains highly sensitive information (including text messages, social media messages, photographs, and other records) that, if exposed to the general public, will result in irreparable harm or damage to Plaintiffs.

Currently, it is believed that the file is undergoing redaction by the ASP, and, once redaction is completed, the file will be disseminated to those media outlets and any others who have made FOIA requests.

The ASP’s investigative file contains text messages, emails, photographs, medical information, information regarding Heather Tate Williams’ minor children and Butch Smith’s minor children, confidential business communications, intimate messages between Heather Tate Williams and her husband and Butch Smith and his wife, and other items that are deeply personal to Plaintiffs. Exposure of this information could create significant embarrassment and harm not only to Plaintiffs but to those that were the recipient or sender of said communications-all of whom are innocent parties

The request asks a court to rule that “certain items” are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.


One concern appears to be ABC News’ ongoing work on a special program on the murder.

The murder of Linda Collins-Smith was a high-profile case that received not only local but national spotlight. News outlets and the general public are eager to get their hands on this file, and the information contained in the file will rapidly spread across the country. In fact, various media networks have approached Plaintiffs about running a television program about the murder.

A temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is the only way to avoid the irreparable harm that will result from the ASP’s blanket release of the investigative file to the public.

ABC is in court now seeking release of recordings of court proceedings.

The brief, read it here, outlines arguments on why the FOI shouldn’t apply to at least some material in this case. As someone who’s requested the file, and made some of the first disclosures on key evidence in the public record, I’m of course interested in the fullest disclosure of information about this crime. It has spawned a school of conspiracy theories. But I am also sympathetic to the family’s interests.

I think the broad strokes of this case are clear. Becky O’Donnell, who doesn’t have a pristine past, befriended Collins and took advantage of her. Facing exposure, she killed her. Questions linger about whether she had help. The conspiracists, believe me, take the questions much farther than that. So, a decision to restrict records will  feed that frenzy. Sen. Alan Clark, for one, has demanded full access to Collins’ computer files for his personal review for what it might contain.


This one is going to drag on for a good while, no matter how long Becky O’Donnell serves of the 50-year sentence she negotiated for killing her “friend” and trying to arrange a murder-for-hire plot to kill enemies and destroy evidence. Did she really take this plea to cover for others, as the Twilight Zone conspiracists suggest? Or did she take it to avoid the death penalty? I go with Occam’s Razor.