Anna Nicole Smith’s estranged mother tearfully acknowledged Wednesday that her daughter last told her she wanted to be buried in California near her idol Marilyn Monroe — an admission that could hurt the woman’s fight to have the pinup laid to rest in her native Texas.
Virgie Arthur, 55, said her last conversation with her daughter about her burial came more than 10 years ago.
“Wherever the stars are buried, that’s where she wanted to be buried,” said Arthur, a heavyset woman with bleached blond hair.
Smith’s ex-boyfriend, photographer Larry Birkhead, also testified Wednesday that Smith wanted to be buried in California.
The testimony came in a dispute between Arthur and Howard K. Stern, the lawyer who had been Smith’s boyfriend for many years. Stern wants to bury the former centerfold in the Bahamas with her son, Daniel, who died last September at age 20 of apparently drug-related causes.
Arthur said she believed any mother would want to be buried with her children. She said she wants to exhume the son and rebury him in Texas.
Smith, 39, died Feb. 8 in a Florida hotel of unknown causes.
The Florida hearing is just one part of the legal battle surrounding Smith. In California, a judge is trying to determine who fathered Smith’s 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn, who could inherit millions, depending on how Smith’s estate is divided.
Stern is listed as the father on the birth certificate, but Birkhead, who once dated Smith, says the girl is his.
On Tuesday, Stern testified that Smith had insisted at her son’s funeral on being buried with him in the Bahamas. But Stern also acknowledged that she had once asked to be buried near Monroe.
Monroe was interred in a crypt in Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles in 1962.
On the stand in Fort Lauderdale, Arthur was hammered with questions about any compensation she has or would receive from news organizations for access to interviews or footage after the deaths of her daughter and grandson.
She frequently said no to questions about arrangements with specific media outlets, and sidestepped other questions or claimed she didn’t understand them.
“Have you in any fashion profited at all from the death of your daughter?” asked Krista Barth, an attorney for Stern.
Arthur stared for a moment. “I’m trying to process that question,” she said. Then Arthur attempted to deflect the attention, pointing at Stern.
“He has,” she said.
It was a refrain Arthur repeated several times in an attempt to raise suspicions about Stern and the unsolved deaths of her daughter and grandson.
“I knew she would be next. My grandson did not overdose. Howard was there when he died, and Howard was there when my daughter died. And he has my granddaughter now and it is not even his child. I’m afraid for her life as well,” Arthur said, crying. “Please, help us.”
Stern shook his head. Earlier in Arthur’s testimony, he angrily rose from his seat, but the judge interrupted him before he could complete a sentence.
“You have no podium here, Mr. Stern,” the judge said. “Appreciate you being here, though.”
Later in the day, Arthur acknowledged that she had received some compensation from news organizations. She said the tabloid news agency Splash paid to fly her to the Bahamas when she visited her grandson’s grave last month, and she acknowledged her sister-in-law had sold family video footage.
Arthur also acknowledged that a Splash representative accompanied her to a viewing of Smith’s body Wednesday afternoon.
Stern said he was receiving no money from news organizations but had accepted a free flight to the Bahamas from “Entertainment Tonight.”
Birkhead took the stand late in the day, detailing his relationship with Smith and reiterating his claim that he is her baby’s father. He said he had made no media deals, though he said he received royalties from photos he took of Smith.
For a second time, Broward County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Joshua Perper, warned the judge that little time remains before Smith’s body becomes too decomposed for a public viewing. Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin promised a ruling by Friday.
Deterioration begins at the moment of death, and embalming only slows the process, so the face could undergo unsightly changes in color.
There were comical moments Wednesday. The judge mistakenly referred to Perper as “Dr. Pepper.” And Arthur asked if she could “plead the Fifth” on her age.
Smith was the widow of Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II. The two married 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.