Court Battle Gains Urgency As Anna Nicole's Body Decomposes

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (February 21, 2007) — The drawn-out court battle over what to do with Anna Nicole Smith’s body has a new sense of urgency: the starlet’s remains are decomposing more quickly than expected and a public viewing could be in danger.

That warning from Broward County’s medical examiner Tuesday came as Smith’s boyfriend and her estranged mother fought over where to bury the former Playboy pinup. The legal maneuvering that was set to continue Wednesday has been going on for about a week, and Smith died Feb. 8. Her cause of death is under investigation.

Also at issue in a California court is who fathered Smith’s 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn, who could inherit millions of dollars. Boyfriend Howard K. Stern is listed as the father on the birth certificate, but a photographer who once dated Smith says the girl is his.

Stern wants Smith to be buried next to her son Daniel in the Bahamas, where he died from apparent drug-related causes last year. The mother, Virgie Arthur, wants Smith and her grandson buried back in Smith’s native Texas, her attorney said.

Without written proof of Smith’s wishes, Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin was forced to hear testimony from those who claim to know what she wanted. He said he would rule by Friday.

Arthur, who was expected to back on the stand Wednesday, testified that drugs soured her relationship with her daughter. Arthur said the two talked only every few months and that Smith often called her in the middle of the night sounding “drugged.”

“She was on Valium. She liked downers,” Arthur said. “She didn’t like uppers.”

O’Quinn accused Stern of causing Smith’s drug problems, and that she was “egged on to say things sensational” about her relationship with her mother.

Stern earlier testified Smith never recovered from her son’s death. He said a grief-stricken Smith threw herself over his body as he lay in a coffin in the Bahamas, wailing, “If Daniel has to be buried, I want to buried with him.”

Stern attorney Krista Barth said she had bank documentation proving Smith had agreed to pay for two cemetery plots in Nassau.

O’Quinn said Smith’s son was buried illegally in the Bahamas. “There was no reason to be burying somebody who is not a legal resident of the Bahamas in the Bahamas,” he told a reporter.

“This whole case is based on fraud, fraud, fraud perpetrated by Stern so he can always control everything and make money off of Anna,” he said.

Stern testified the couple considered each other husband and wife and had celebrated a commitment ceremony, though it was not legal. Stern said they had planned to legally wed this week. He conceded, however, that Smith had other lovers.

He also said he isn’t looking for any money from her estate and would waive his fee as the executor of her will. “I do not intend to get one penny,” Stern said.

Still, the issue of who is Dannielynn’s father was inescapable. The girl could be worth millions of dollars, depending on how Smith’s estate is divided up.

A California judge refused to give up the paternity case involving the girl but suggested there were still questions to be resolved before the courts can determine which state has jurisdiction.

Attorneys for Arthur and the other man who claims to be the father, Larry Birkhead, sought to discredit Stern. Outside the courtroom, Debra Opri, who represents Birkhead, said Stern’s claim of a romantic relationship with Smith wasn’t even true.

Smith was the widow of Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II. The two married in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. She had been fighting his family over his estimated $500 million fortune since his death in 1995.

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