Authorities said Wednesday that they have launched a homicide investigation into the death of a former Republican state senator in Arkansas who was found fatally shot at her home.
Linda Collins-Smith, 57, died from a gunshot wound at her home in Pocahontas, about two hours outside of Little Rock, her former press secretary, Ken Yang, told KATV. It’s not clear precisely when the former lawmaker, who was reportedly found wrapped in a blanket, was killed.
“She was a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family,” a spokesperson for the Republican Party of Arkansas told The Daily Beast on Wednesday, confirming her death. “We are praying for her loved ones during this difficult time.”
Arkansas State Police told The Daily Beast that officers responded to Collins-Smith’s home around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday after “individuals familiar” to her had “discovered human remains” outside the house. According to Yang, two neighbors told police they’d heard “gunshots a day or two” before authorities found Collins-Smith’s body.
While the state medical examiner is expected to release further details about her cause of death Wednesday evening, authorities said they are already handling the incident as a homicide.
“The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division has been requested by the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department to be the lead investigative agency in what is currently being handled as a homicide investigation,” an Arkansas State police spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “No further statements by this department will be made until additional facts in the case can be confirmed.”
Collins-Smith was first elected to the state Senate in 2014 for District 19, but lost her re-election bid in 2018 to James Sturch, who tweeted his condolences Tuesday evening.
“Macy and I were sorry to hear the news of Senator Linda Collins passing,” he said. “While Senator Collins and I didn’t always agree, there is no doubt she was a passionate advocate for what she believed. I ask all of Senate District 19 to join me in praying for her family during this time.”
Prior to her time in the Senate, the lawmaker served in the state House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013. While she was elected as a Democrat, Collins-Smith switched parties just months after taking office, citing a change in “ideals.”
“To so many of us, Senator Linda Collins-Smith was more than just a colleague,” a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Arkansas told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “She was a friend and warm person. We are stunned and saddened to hear of her death.”
During her time in the Senate, Collins-Smith was a staunch supporter of gun rights, introducing legislation aimed at expanding zones where concealed weapons are permitted.
“You can’t be pro-gun enough in Arkansas,” Collins-Smith told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette during her 2018 re-election campaign.