A former Arkansas lawmaker was discovered dead inside her Randolph County home Tuesday evening.
Linda Collins-Smith, who served as a state senator between 2014 and 2018, died from apparent gunshot wounds in an incident that authorities are treating as a homicide.
Grisly murder scene
Collins-Smith’s remains were discovered wrapped in a blanket, and her body had decomposed to such an extent that authorities could not confirm her identity. Forensics experts were called in to investigate the property, and a state medical examiner from the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory will perform an autopsy officially identifying the remains.
Until then, authorities aren’t saying much about Collins-Smith’s cause of death or the circumstances leading up to her murder. Ken Yang, a neighbor who once campaigned on behalf of the senator and served as her press secretary, told the KATV that he heard gunshots a day or two prior to when her body was found.
Initial reports suggested that Collins-Smith was actually discovered somewhere outside her home in Pocahontas, Arkansas, and that her body was left in the elements for several days to decompose. However, multiple national news outlets consistently stated that her remains were found inside the home.
“I am shocked and in tears. That’s my friend, Linda has always been there for me! I’m speechless,” Yang wrote on Twitter, confirming that “reports say it appears to be murder.”
A friend to many
The Arkansas GOP, to which Collins-Smith belonged after leaving the Democratic Party in 2011, also left a tribute to the senator on Twitter.
“She was a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family. We are praying for her loved ones during this difficult time,” the organization wrote.
Between 2011 and 2013, Collins-Smith served in the Arkansas House of Representatives, representing District 80. After joining the GOP during her first year in the state General Assembly, she stated: “I have not left the Democratic Party, but the party left me.”
Despite Collins-Smith’s choice to abandon Arkansas progressives, whom she accused of moving too far to the left, the state Democratic Party also eulogized Collins-Smith on social media.
“To so many of us, Senator Linda Collins-Smith was more than just a colleague,” the local party tweeted. “She was a friend and warm person. We are stunned and saddened to hear of her death. Please join us in prayer as we remember her family and her loved ones.”
The Arkansas State Police have taken over the investigation into the senator’s death from the local sheriff’s department. Those with information regarding the death of Collins-Smith have been asked to call 501-618-8000.