The feuding mother, partner and former boyfriend of Anna Nicole Smith took a brief break from a courtroom battle over the Playboy model’s corpse Wednesday to get a private viewing of her rapidly decomposing body in a Florida morgue.
The visitation came on the fifth day of hearings before south Florida Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin, who has said he will decide by Friday whether to let Smith’s body be released to her companion Howard K. Stern and buried in the Bahamas, or to her estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, and buried in Texas.
The body of Smith -- famous in life for her abundant curves -- has laid in cold storage for nearly two weeks at the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office since she died Feb. 8 at a Florida casino hotel of unexplained causes, aged 39.
It was finally embalmed Saturday, after a struggle to find a funeral home willing to sign a confidentiality agreement. But Seidlin got a call from Broward County Medical Examiner Joshua Perper Tuesday and again Wednesday saying the corpse was decomposing quickly and would soon be unsuitable for a family viewing.
Arthur, Stern and Larry Birkhead, a former Smith boyfriend who claims to be the father of her 5-month-old daughter, were ferried in black sport utility vehicles from the court to the morgue for a viewing of the former Playboy centerfold model.
The hearings before Seidlin, who again Wednesday swatted aside complaints from lawyers that the proceedings had become a circus, were dominated by accusations that all involved were trying to profit from Smith’s corpse.
Smith’s son Daniel died in the Bahamas, aged 20, just three days after his mother gave birth to the baby girl, Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern.
Aside from the prospect of turning Smith’s colorful life and death to profit, Smith’s estate could also one day be worth half a billion dollars if it prevails in a separate, decade-long courtroom battle to inherit the fortune of her dead husband, oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall. So the question of who fathered Dannielynn looms large.
Birkhead says he is the father while Stern is listed on the birth certificate as the child’s father.
In testimony on Wednesday, Birkhead said Smith miscarried the first child they were to have had together in early 2005.
When she told him she was pregnant again, in February 2006, Birkhead said he asked Smith if she was certain he was the father of the future Dannielynn.
“She slapped me and said ’I’m not a whore, you dummy,”’ said Birkhead.
He said arguments over her drug-taking during the second pregnancy prompted his split-up with Smith in May 2006.
Echoing earlier remarks from Smith’s own mother, Birkhead also said the onetime topless dancer told him she wanted to be buried near her idol, Marilyn Monroe, in the same Los Angeles cemetery as the Hollywood star.
Stern, meanwhile, said Smith had been his sole source of economic support over the past two years and acknowledged she took anti-depressants, pain-killers and methadone and was frequently impaired.
Seeking to capitalize on the Anna Nicole case, a convenience store outside the courthouse on Wednesday put T-shirts on sale for $15 each with the slogan, “I’m the Baby’s Daddy.”