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DNA expert: Science will prove Smith paternity

At least three men are claiming to have fathered the 5-month-old child of Anna Nicole Smith.  Dr. Lawrence Koblinsky of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice weighs in.
/ Source: TODAY

Anna Nicole Smith's DNA is not necessary to determine who fathered the infant daughter she left behind, but a sample could lay to rest concerns about a switched-baby scenario, a prominent DNA expert tells TODAY.

“They're all lining up now, but science will give us the answer very easily,” Dr. Lawrence Koblinsky of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice said during an appearance Monday.

At least three men say they may have fathered 5-month-old Dannielynn. The child stands to potentially inherit her mother's assets, which could include the $474 million share of the estate left behind by Smith's 89-year-old billionaire husband, who died in 1995.

The dueling dads include: Howard K. Stern, Smith's boyfriend, who is listed as the father on the birth certificate; Larry Birkhead, a photographer and former boyfriend of Smith's; and Prince Frederic Von Anhalt, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, who claims he had an affair with Smith.

Birkhead got a judge Friday to order Smith's body preserved until the court decides whether to compel a Florida medical examiner to give Birkhead's lawyer a sample of Smith's DNA in connection with his paternity action. Birkhead's lawyer says the sample is needed to make sure there was no effort by Smith's camp to pull off a “bait-and-switch” baby situation and deny Birkhead his parental rights.

The 39-year-old Smith, a former Playboy Playmate model, reality TV star and diet-company spokesperson, was found unconscious in her Florida hotel room on Thursday and declared dead at a hospital. An autopsy did not immediately determine the cause of death; the coroner hopes the results of pending toxicological tests will solve the mystery.

Simple science
The legal issues may be complex, but the science of verifying paternity is not, according to Koblinsky.

“It is a simple matter of looking at the genes of the child and alleged father and see if there are matches,” Koblinsky said. “The reality is quite straightforward, simple. That is: you don't need the mother there to establish paternity. Just the father and the child is sufficient.”

Smith's attorney, Ron Rale, told TODAY on Friday that Birkhead's emergency motion for Smith's DNA so soon after she died was “despicable” and unnecessary. But appearing with Koblinsky on TODAY on Monday, psychotherapist Robi Ludwig said Dannielynn has a right to know the identity of both parents.

“A child has a right to know who the father is,” Ludwig said. “We really have to think of the mental health of this child. She had an early loss of her mother. She has a right to know who her father is.”

In yet another twist, the New York Daily News reported that Smith's half-sister claimed in an unpublished book manuscript that Smith froze the sperm of her deceased husband, the oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, and may have used it to become pregnant.

— John Springer and news reports