Judges on both coasts weighed in Wednesday on what to do with Anna Nicole Smith’s remains amid the custody dispute over her infant daughter, moving closer to releasing the former Playboy Playmate’s body for burial.
A Florida judge, citing a California court’s order last week for DNA testing on Smith’s body, ordered a morgue not to release it.
A Los Angeles judge, however, quickly lifted a request that the body be held.
“California has no need for the body of Anna Nicole,” said James Neavitt, an attorney for Howard K. Stern, one of several men claiming paternity of 5-month-old Dannielynn.
Neavitt said Florida officials who performed the autopsy on Smith have preserved her DNA.
Attorneys for Stern, Smith’s mother and an ex-lover of Smith’s went back to court in Florida, each seeking custody of the body. Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin made no ruling, but the hearing was to resume Thursday morning.
Another Florida judge had ordered the body held for 10 days after a brief meeting in his chambers Wednesday morning with attorneys for photographer Larry Birkhead, who claims to be the baby’s father.
Birkhead asked the Florida court Tuesday to enforce the California court order for DNA testing filed Friday, the day after Smith died. Nancy Hass, an attorney for Birkhead, said the Birkhead camp feared that accurate DNA testing would not be possible if the body were released and moved out of state.
Smith’s mother, Vergie Arthur, and Stern had been opposing last week’s decision by the Los Angeles judge, fearing that if the body is not embalmed, even though it is refrigerated, it will not be suitable for viewing or funeral purposes.
“We would just want ... to proceed with a proper burial,” Ron Rale, the attorney who had represented Smith in the California paternity battle, said before the hearing in Los Angeles.
“No one should go about touching Anna Nicole,” Rale said.
Krista Barth, another lawyer for Stern, said Smith made it clear she wanted to be buried in the Bahamas, where her son is buried, and condemned what she said were Arthur’s efforts to bury her daughter’s body in Texas.
“I think we all know Anna wants to be next to Daniel, and anything else is a tragedy,” Barth said.
A Bahamian judge issued an injunction Tuesday preventing the baby from being taken out of the country until the custody case is resolved. Arthur wants to be named guardian of her granddaughter and sought the order because she feared Stern would take the child from the Bahamas, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Arthur has said she fears for the baby’s safety, noting Stern was present when Smith died and when Smith’s son died in the Bahamas in September, three days after Dannielynn was born. Stern has said Smith hated her mother.
As the dispute unfolded in court, Broward County medical examiner Joshua Perper filed an affidavit Tuesday urging the prompt release of the body, warning that “any further delay would result in destructive changes to the body.”
Susan Brown, who with Hass represented Birkhead at Wednesday’s hearing in Florida, said she did not object to Smith being embalmed.
Perper said the model’s body will remain refrigerated until he receives a judge’s order.
Smith, 39, died Feb. 8 after collapsing at a hotel. She was the widow of billionaire J. Howard Marshall II, whom she married when he was 89 and she was 26. She had been fighting his family for years over his fortune.
Dannielynn could inherit millions from her mother’s estate.
Stern is the primary executor of Smith’s will and is authorized to make funeral arrangements.
Prince Frederic von Anhalt, the husband of the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, has said he had a decade-long affair with Smith and may also be the father. He said Monday he plans to file a paternity challenge and wants a DNA test.
A hearing was set for Tuesday in Los Angeles to consider whether DNA from Smith can be used in the paternity case.