Battle grows for control of Smith’s body

first_imgStern claims he is executor of Smith’s will and wants to have her buried next to her son in the Bahamas; Arthur wants her daughter buried in her home state of Texas; and Birkhead simply wants to prove he is the father of Dannielynn, who potentially could inherit millions. For now, though, the judge said Smith’s body would stay where it was. “This body belongs to me right now,” he said. “This body’s not leaving Broward County till I make the ruling.” Smith, 39, died Feb. 8 after collapsing at a hotel. She was a Playboy Playmate of the Year and the widow of Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, whom she married in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. She had been fighting his family over his fortune since his death in 1995. On Wednesday morning, a case filed by Birkhead prompted a brief hearing before Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda in the court’s family division. Korda ordered Smith’s body temporarily retained by the morgue, following an earlier ruling in California. FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The bickering over Anna Nicole Smith spiraled into a post-mortem legal war Wednesday, with judges on both coasts issuing rulings and a parade of lawyers fighting for control of the body. At the end of the day, though, Smith’s remains still were at the medical examiner’s office, and a judge here said the dispute could be lengthy. “We’re going to have hearings, as many hearings as we need,” Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin said at the start of afternoon proceedings. “This is just a warm-up.” At least three people are seeking control of Smith’s body – her longtime companion Howard K. Stern, her estranged mother, Vergie Arthur, and photographer Larry Birkhead, who claims to have fathered the model’s 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. But a Los Angeles judge later Wednesday lifted the ruling that the body be held. It appeared the case would become solely under Seidlin’s jurisdiction in probate court in Florida. When discussion resumes this morning, the judge will hear more of the sordid drama that has evolved since Smith’s death. Stern’s filing Wednesday acknowledges that Smith’s will makes no mention of where she wanted to be buried, but his attorneys claim that he is authorized to make her funeral arrangements. The petition includes affidavits from Smith’s bodyguard, her physician, a neighbor and a friend stating that the one-time reality television star wanted a Bahamas burial with her son. “It is very clear what she wanted,” said Krista Barth, a lawyer for Stern. “I think we all know Anna wants to be next to Daniel, and anything else is a tragedy.” Stern’s attorneys provided a transcript of interviews Smith gave to “Entertainment Tonight” in October in which she said Arthur was her birth mother but nothing more. “You want to hear all the things she did to me? You want to hear all the things she let my father do to me or my brother do to me? Or my sister?” she said, according to the transcript. “All the beatings and the whippin’s and the rape? That’s my mother. That’s my mom.” Arthur’s attorney, Stephen Tunstall, did not comment on the specifics alleged in the Stern filing, though he did say the mother had become estranged from Smith over drug use. But he added that none of it made any difference now. “Since the dawn of civilization, the next of kin has been given the rights and responsibility of their dead,” Tunstall said. As for Birkhead, his attorneys say he simply wants to ensure that he gets a DNA sample that has not been tampered with and that they had no interest in the burial. “We don’t care about the body,” said one of the lawyers, Susan Brown. Broward County medical examiner Joshua Perper warned that Smith’s corpse is decomposing and should be released. Her body will remain refrigerated until the judge rules. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more