Anna Nicole Smith's last, lonely days in a Florida hotel suite were marked by illness, depression over her son's death, and separation from her infant daughter. Still, the former Playboy Playmate "sounded good" and showed no signs she was abusing drugs again, her lawyer and friend told TODAY.
"I don't know if she was taking any kind of medication. I do know that I spoke with her the last couple of days and she was fine," Los Angeles-based attorney Ron Rale told TODAY host Matt Lauer on Friday. "She sounded clear. She hadn't been feeling well. She had a fever the last couple of days and I know they were icing her down."
An autopsy was conducted Friday on the 39-year-old former model but further tests are needed to determine the cause of death, said Dr. Joshua Perper, the Broward County medical examiner. He said Smith could have died from natural causes, from medication she took, or from a combination of the two. Police said prescription drugs were found in Smith's room.
Meanwhile, a judge in Los Angeles refused a request for an emergency DNA sample from Smith but ordered that the body be preserved until a hearing Feb. 20, attorneys said. Lawyers for Larry Birkhead, a former boyfriend claiming to be the father of Smith's 5-month-old daughter Dannielynn, had asked for the immediate DNA test.
Attorney Howard K. Stern, Smith's most recent companion, is listed on Dannielynn's birth certificate as her father. And Prince Frederick von Anhalt, the husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, came forth Friday to say that he had a decade-long affair with Smith and could be the father.
Establishing paternity could determine who gets a share of Smith's assets.
A legal quagmireSmith's death left major legal issues undecided. She was battling over her late husband J. Howard Marshall II's oil fortune with the family of his son. And there is a pending class-action suit seeking unspecified damages against Smith and TrimSpa Inc., alleging the company's marketing of a weight-loss pill with Smith as spokeswoman was false and misleading.
Rale said the request by Birkhead's lawyers for immediate access to Smith's DNA, filed so soon over Smith's death, was ill-timed. "I think it is despicable," Rale said. "We don't think it is necessary. You don't need Anna's DNA to find out if Mr. Birkhead is the father or not."
Birkhead's attorney, Debra Opri, said at a press conference after Friday's court hearing that the DNA was needed to connect Smith with Dannielynn "so that no one can switch the babies." She also asked the judge to take jurisdiction over the child until her paternity is established. The judge did not rule on that issue.
Some observers have questioned whether Howard Stern had an unhealthy hold on Smith and her affairs, but Rale said that characterization was off-base.
"I think that is so misleading. Anna and Howard had a truly loving relationship. If anything, I’d say Anna was wearing the pants, if you will," Rale said on TODAY. "Howard would do anything for Anna. He was so loyal to her, so supportive of her. From day one, Howard has been in Anna’s corner totally, the best supporter she’s ever had in her life. Howard would put Anna Nicole first."
A model spokespersonAlso on TODAY, Alex Goen, the chief executive officer of the TrimSpa line of diet products Smith promoted, said he does not regret taking on Smith as a company spokesperson. He noted Smith lost more than 69 pounds on his product and she’s still bringing attention to it, even in death. A lawsuit brought against Smith (and TrimSpa Inc.) in connection with the claims of the weight-loss pill's efficacy must have been weighing on her mind with everything else, he added, noting that just five months ago, Smith's 20-year-old son, Daniel, died mysteriously in her hospital room in the Bahamas just days after the birth of her daughter.
“She had so many different lawsuits that she was dealing with. It was an incredible amount of pressure,” Goen said. “Ever since Daniel’s passing, it has been a very difficult life. Just mourning the loss of your son is a difficult thing. And then on top of that to have to deal with one lawsuit after another, one accusation after another … Clearly, they are incredibly taxing.”
Given all that has transpired throughout her short life, some are already drawing parallels to Smith's demise and that of the last century’s best-known sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe.
"Isn't this almost predictable? Didn't she have such a potential tragic ending in sight from the very beginning?" Lauer asked the TrimSpa executive.
"Her life is a horrible roller coaster ride. It has been very, very difficult," Goen said. "As far as predictable, I certainly did not predict this. It is sincerely sad. She really was a big big-hearted, very caring, very misunderstood human being."
-- John Springer and news reports