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Judge makes no ruling in Smith baby case

Anna Nicole Smith’s mother and an ex-boyfriend fought for custody of her infant daughter in court Monday but the judge made no ruling — leaving the baby in the care of the former model’s partner Howard K. Stern.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Anna Nicole Smith’s mother and an ex-boyfriend fought for custody of her infant daughter in court Monday but the judge made no ruling — leaving the baby in the care of the former model’s partner Howard K. Stern.

John O’Quinn, an attorney for Smith’s mother Vergie Arthur, said Arthur asked to see her granddaughter. But the judge said she needs permission from Stern, who is listed on 5-month-old Dannielynn’s birth certificate as the father.

“We want a visit with the baby and Stern won’t let us,” O’Quinn said.

Smith’s former boyfriend Larry Birkhead claims he is the baby’s father and therefore is entitled to custody. He gave a thumbs-up sign as he left the pink, colonial-style courthouse after the hearing but declined to answer reporters’ questions.

Birkhead has been demanding DNA testing to determine the paternity of the baby and a sample of DNA has been taken from Smith’s body in Florida for that purpose. But lawyers said the court made no rulings at Monday’s hearing.

“We anticipate DNA testing,” Birkhead’s attorney Debra Opri said after the session. She did not elaborate.

Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern, who was born in the Bahamas on Sept. 7, is staying at a gated, waterfront mansion in Nassau where Smith lived with Stern until she died of unknown causes in Florida on Feb. 8.

The short, tragic life of the former Playboy playmate and model.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Isaacs dealt only with procedural matters in the closed-door session and scheduled the next hearing for mid-March, said Wayne Munroe, an attorney for Smith’s estate in the Bahamas.

Arthur brought legal action in the Bahamas to wrest guardianship of the girl from Stern. Arthur claims she could a provide a more stable home for the infant, who could inherit a fortune.

Smith married Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. She had been fighting his family over his estimated $500 million fortune since his death in 1995.

Stern, who returned from Florida on Saturday, did not appear for the hearing. The judge has ordered him not to take the infant out of the island chain until a custody ruling has been made.

Thomas Evans, a Bahamas attorney, said there is no specific provision in Bahamian law for a paternity claim based on DNA. The court could determine that any of those seeking custody — or even another party such as the country’s Department of Social Services — should have custody, based on the best interests of the child, he said.

Birkhead, a Los Angeles-based photographer, has sought DNA samples from Smith’s body and the baby to prove his claim. Frederic von Anhalt, the husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, also says he may be the father but he is not involved in this case.

Birkhead arrived at the courthouse in white limousine and before the hearing began, he said he was eager to see Dannielynn. “I hope to get to see her and have her soon,” he said.

In another Nassau courtroom Monday, a separate hearing was scheduled in a dispute over the mansion where Smith and Stern were living before her death.

G. Ben Thompson, a South Carolina developer who briefly dated Smith, says he advanced her money for the $900,000 house but she did not honor an agreement to pay the mortgage. She had claimed the house was a gift.

An attorney for Thompson, Godrey Pinder, said regardless of any court decision, he would not try to immediately evict Stern out of concern for Dannielynn.

“We want to be concerned about the baby,” he said. “We don’t want to hurt her, so whatever is reasonable.”

A court-appointed advocate for Dannielynn decided last week that Smith should be buried in the Bahamas, beside the grave of her 20-year-old son Daniel, who died while visiting her in a Bahamas hospital, just days after she gave birth to Dannielynn.

But Arthur wants Smith buried in her native Texas. She asked an appeals court in Florida on Monday to overturn a judge’s decision that authorized the advocate to decide where to bury Smith. The appeals court issued a stay, meaning that for now her remains cannot be moved to the Bahamas.