Woman pleads not guilty to attempted murder-for-hire plan

POCAHONTAS, Ark. (AP) — A woman charged with killing a former Arkansas state lawmaker pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that she asked fellow inmates to kill the victim’s ex-husband and others while in jail.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell entered the plea to two counts of criminal solicitation and two counts of criminal solicitation to commit tampering with physical evidence. O’Donnell has pleaded not guilty to capital murder in the killing of former Sen. Linda Collins.

Four inmates told State Police that O’Donnell talked with them about killing Collins’ ex-husband, Phil Smith, and making his death look like suicide, investigators have said.

O’Donnell is also accused of talking with inmates about blowing up her own vehicle to destroy potential evidence, and of looking for someone to kill the prosecutor who had been handling her case before he recused himself.

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Three inmates said O’Donnell told them they could take a bag of gold and silver from Smith’s home as payment, according to charging documents.

Collins, who went by Collins-Smith in the Legislature, was found dead June 4 outside her home in Pocahontas, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock. O’Donnell is scheduled to go to trial on the murder charge in October. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty.

A judge on Wednesday also issued a modified order sealing search warrant affidavits and the investigative file from the murder investigation. The documents had been sought by attorneys for ABC News and the Arkansas Press Association. Judge John Fogleman said he would review other documents already submitted to the clerk to see if any additional materials would be released to the public.

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