What We Know About Gun Deaths of 2 State Senators Within Days Last Week

Two former state senators were found in their homes within a span of two days last week, prompting investigations in two states.

On Thursday night, former Oklahoma state senator Jonathan Nichols was discovered dead inside his Norman, OK., residence from an apparent gunshot wound, according to a press release from Norman Police Department.

The former lawmaker’s death came two days after former Arkansas state senator Linda Collins-Smith was found dead in her home, also from an apparent gunshot wound.

Here are four things to know about the cases.

1. The Cases are Seemingly Unrelated

There are several similarities to the cases: both of the victims are former Republican lawmakers. They both died of gunshot wounds, and were found dead inside their homes.

But that’s where the similarities seem to end. The two lawmakers lived approximately 450 miles apart, and there is no indication that they knew each other.

Collins-Smith’s death has been classified as a homicide. Her body was found wrapped in a blanket, and authorities are searching for suspects who might have been involved.

The Randolph County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas State Police are continuing to investigate her death as suspicious, Region 8 News reports. Sheriff Kevin Bell also told the outlet that the public does not appear to be in danger.

Nichols’ death is currently under investigation by Norman Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division and the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office. According to a press release from the NPD, they are working to determine Nichols’ cause and manner of death.

2. The Bodies Were Discovered In a Span of 2 Days, But The Deaths May Have Happened Further Apart

By the time authorities found Collins-Smith, they said her body had already begun to decompose, which made the identification process more difficult, according to the Arkansas Times.

Authorities have not released a timeframe for her death. Her former press secretary, Ken Yang, told KATV that her neighbors had reportedly heard several gunshots just a day or two before her body was discovered.

Authorities found Nichols, 53, shortly after receiving a call that somebody had been shot inside the home. It’s unclear how long he had been dead.

3. Both Victims had Served for Several Years in Their Respective State Governments

Nichols served as a state senator from 2000-2012. He later went on to take staff positions in the state House, Senate and the University of Oklahoma, KOCO News 5 reports.

At the time of his death, Nichols was working as a senior policy advisor for House Speaker Charles McCall, according to NonDoc.

In a statement to the local outlet, McCall remembered Nichols for being “proud but humble” and said he was a “valuable” staff member and friend.

Collins-Smith served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2010 to 2012 and represented Randolph and Sharp counties (District 80), according to her website.

She also served as a former member of the Arkansas State Senate, where she represented District 19 after being first elected in 2014. In the primary on May 22, 2018, Collins-Smith was defeated.

4. Their Deaths Have Sent Shock Waves Through The States’ Political Communities 

Nichols leaves behind his wife Talitha and their two daughters. Collins-Smith was a divorced mom of 2 adult children. According to her website, she was also a grandmother.

Shortly after the news of Collins-Smith’s death broke on Tuesday, several political figures and groups expressed their sadness on social media.

The Arkansas GOP confirmed her death on Twitter and spoke to how they would remember Collins-Smith for her “passionate voice for her people.”

In Oklahoma, House Speaker Charles McCall tweeted that Nichols “was a very proud man, but he served humbly. He was proud of his family and loved them deeply, he was proud of Norman and he was proud of Oklahoma.”

The investigations into both deaths are ongoing.

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