Murder Probe Launched Over Death of Former Arkansas Lawmaker

(CN) – Arkansas State Police said Thursday the woman found dead outside of her home in the city of Pocahontas this week is former state Senator Linda Collins-Smith and authorities are investigating the case as a homicide.

Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, speaks at the Arkansas state capitol in Little Rock on Jan. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

The medical examiner confirmed the 57-year-old’s death. Randolph County Sheriff Kevin Bell did not name any suspects at a news conference or say how Collins-Smith was killed.

“The condition of the body prevented any immediate positive identification,” Bell said Wednesday, adding that her body has been sent for an autopsy to determine a cause of death.

Sheriff’s deputies discovered the body of a woman at Collins-Smith’s residence at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday in the city of Pocahontas, about 145 miles northeast of Little Rock.

An order sealing documents and statements obtained by police was issued Wednesday by Randolph County Circuit Judge Harold Erwin, preventing the release of any material in the investigation.

A businesswoman by trade, Collins-Smith was elected as a Democrat in 2011 to the Arkansas House of Representatives, where she served one term. She switched parties and won election to the state Senate in 2014.

While Collins-Smith lost her re-election bid in last year’s Republican primary, she was praised by the Arkansas Republican Party on Tuesday, which called her “a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family.”

Governor Asa Hutchinson said in a statement that he was “both stunned and saddened” by Collins-Smith’s death.

“She was a good person who served in the public arena with passion and conviction. The First Lady and I extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this difficult time,” Hutchinson said.

The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division and the sheriff’s office continue to investigate.

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