“The Hands of a Killer”: Dateline Reports on Linda Collins Homicide July 12 2024

Catch the compelling episode of “Dateline NBC” titled “The Hands of a Killer” airing on July 12, 2024. This special episode delves deep into the shocking murder of former Arkansas state senator Linda Collins, who was tragically found dead outside her Pocahontas home in June 2019, just months after leaving office. The investigation into Collins’ death captivated the nation as authorities swiftly arrested Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, a close friend and political aide to Collins, on charges of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse. O’Donnell, who had been described as “like a sister” to Collins, ultimately pleaded guilty to the charges, shedding light on a motive related to financial crimes and allegations of soliciting murder from behind bars.

Background of Linda Collins

Linda Collins was born on April 17, 1962, in Pocahontas, Arkansas. She grew up in a poor family and attended school in Williford. In 1995, she married Philip Smith, and they had two children. During their marriage, she went by the name Linda Collins-Smith. The couple separated in June 2016, and the divorce was finalized in October 2018. Despite the divorce, Philip Smith was still engaged in litigation with Collins related to property disputes at the time of her death.

Collins had a background in real estate and entrepreneurship before entering politics. She and her husband owned and operated the Days Inn in Pocahontas and later an independent motel. Her political career began in 2010 when she was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives as a Democrat. Shortly after taking office, she switched her party affiliation to Republican. She served in the House from 2011 to 2013 and later sought election to the Arkansas Senate, where she served from 2014 until she lost her reelection bid in 2018.

The Murder of Linda Collins

In June 2019, Linda Collins was found murdered outside her home in Pocahontas. Her body was discovered in an advanced state of decomposition, wrapped in a tarp and left in the driveway. The initial discovery was made by her son, Butch Smith, and her father during a welfare check after the family had not heard from her for a week. The scene immediately indicated foul play, with blood stains found in the kitchen and Collins’ body concealed under a tarp.

Authorities quickly focused their investigation on Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, a close friend and former political aide to Collins. O’Donnell had worked closely with Collins and had been described by many as being “like a sister” to her. Despite this close relationship, O’Donnell was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence. The arrest shocked the community, given the apparent closeness between the two women.

The Investigation and Trial

The investigation revealed crucial evidence that led to O’Donnell’s arrest. Security camera footage from Collins’ home showed O’Donnell tampering with the cameras and holding a bloody knife. This footage, coupled with other evidence, painted a clear picture of O’Donnell’s involvement in the murder. Initially, O’Donnell maintained her innocence, claiming she had been set up and that the real culprit was Collins’ ex-husband, Philip Smith. However, the evidence against her was overwhelming.

In 2020, O’Donnell pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse. She also pleaded no contest to charges of solicitation to commit capital murder for allegedly attempting to arrange the murders of Collins’ ex-husband and others from behind bars. O’Donnell was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the murder, with additional sentences for the solicitation charges. This plea deal spared her the possibility of facing the death penalty if the case had gone to trial.

Motive and Aftermath

The motive behind Collins’ murder was rooted in financial crimes. O’Donnell had been involved in embezzling money from Collins, and when Collins confronted her about the theft, O’Donnell resorted to murder to cover up her crimes. This revelation added another layer of tragedy to the case, as Collins had trusted O’Donnell deeply, considering her a close friend and confidante.

The murder of Linda Collins had a profound impact on her family and the community. Her children, Butch and Tate, spoke publicly about their grief and the horror of discovering their mother’s body. The case also highlighted the darker side of political and personal relationships, exposing the potential for betrayal and violence even among those considered close friends.


“Dateline NBC’s” episode “The Hands of a Killer” provides an in-depth look at the tragic and complex case of Linda Collins’ murder. Through exclusive interviews with Collins’ family and key figures involved in the investigation, the episode sheds light on the shocking events and the enduring impact on the community. The case serves as a stark reminder of the potential for violence lurking behind seemingly close relationships and the importance of thorough and diligent investigative work in bringing justice to victims and their families.

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Ryan Gill

Ryan is a passionate follower of true crime television programs, reporting on and providing in-depth investigations on mysteries in the criminal world.

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