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After ex-state senator found dead outside her home, a woman is arrested

An Arkansas woman was arrested in connection to the death of former state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, who was found dead outside her home last week.

Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, 48, was taken into custody on Friday, Arkansas State Police said. Criminal charges are pending.

Ken Yang, Collins-Smith’s former press secretary, told NBC News that O’Donnell and Collins-Smith were friends and worked together last year. The ex-senator’s family said in a statement it is “sickened” over the arrest.

“We are sickened and upset that someone so close to Linda, would be involved in such a terrible, heartless crime. The family is very confident that the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department and the Arkansas State Police will continue to work diligently to bring justice to this case,” the family said in a statement.

State police and the sheriff’s office were called to Collins-Smith’s home in the city of Pocahontas around 5:45 p.m. on June 4 after human remains, later identified as those of the former state senator, were found outside. A cause of death has not been revealed.

Yang previously told NBC that neighbors heard gunshots a couple of days before Collins-Smith’s body was found.

Collins-Smith, 57, was elected to the Arkansas House as a Democrat in 2010, and shortly after being elected, switched to the Republican party. She served one term in the House, and in 2014 was elected to the state Senate, where she served two terms. She lost her re-election bid in 2018.

In 2017, she introduced a controversial transgender “bathroom bill” to the Arkansas Senate that would have required people to use the bathrooms that correspond to their assigned sex.

According to her website, she was a mother and grandmother.

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