By Jessica Schladebeck
Former Arkansas State Sen. Linda Collins-Smith was found dead in her home from an apparent gunshot wound that investigators do not currently believe was self-inflicted.
By the time authorities found Collins-Smith in her Pocahontas home Tuesday evening her body had already begun to decompose, the Arkansas Times reported. It's not clear when exactly the former lawmaker, who switched from the Democratic to Republican Party in 2011, was killed.
Her former press secretary, Ken Yang, told KATV that her neighbors heard several gunshots days before Collins-Smith's body was discovered, allegedly wrapped in some type of cloth or blanket.
"I am in shock over the news of Sen. Linda Collins-Smith's death. I am heartbroken for her family & friends as they grieve, & my thoughts & prayers are w/ them during this tragic time," Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin tweeted in wake of the news.
"Linda was a friend who had a deep faith in God & passion for her state & nation. She is missed."
The Randolph County Sheriff's Department and Arkansas State Police early Wednesday morning were investigating Collins-Smith's death as suspicious. Sheriff Kevin Bell told Region 8 News that he does not believe the community is in danger.
Prior to her time in the Senate, Collins-Smith served one term in the state House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013. While she was elected as a Democrat, she swapped parties just months after taking office.
Collins-Smith was first elected to the Senate in 2014 for District 19, which includes eastern Fulton County and all of Izard, Sharp, Independence and Randolph Counties. She lost her re-election bid in 2018 to James Sturch, who also paid tribute to his former political rival on Twitter.
"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."
Arkansas GOP praised her "passionate voice for the people" while the Democratic Party of Arkansas remembered Collins-Smith as "more than just a colleague."
"She was a friend and warm person," it said in a tweet. "Please join us in prayer as we remember her family and her loved ones."
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