Smith to be buried in Bahamas

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 1:33 a.m.
WEST PALM BEACH - A Florida appeals court Wednesday cleared the way for Anna Nicole Smith to be buried in the Bahamas, upholding a lower court ruling and agreeing that evidence clearly supports that's where the former Playboy Playmate wanted to be laid to rest.
The starlet's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, had been fighting last week's ruling from Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin that gave control of the body to an advocate for Smith's 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. She wanted to bury Smith in her home state of Texas.
But Smith's boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, had argued that the pinup wanted to be buried in the Bahamas next to her 20-year-old son, who died last year of apparent drug-related causes, and a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal agreed.
The trial court concluded that Smith's ''last ascertainable wish'' was to be buried alongside her son, the appellate judges said in their ruling. ''This finding is not essentially disputed.''
Smith's body has been held in a Broward County Medical Examiner's Office refrigerator since shortly after she died Feb. 8 in a Florida hotel room at age 39. Lawyer Richard Milstein, the baby's advocate, said Wednesday that a funeral has been scheduled for Friday.
Dr. Joshua Perper, the Broward medical examiner, said after the ruling that he doesn't know when the body would be shipped to the Bahamas, but he did not believe it would be Wednesday. He said embalmers would have to take another look at the body, but he hopes it is ''in such condition that a second viewing will be possible.'' Stern, Arthur and others were earlier allowed to view the body at Perper's office.
Perper said it would be about another 10 days before a cause of death is determined.
Arthur's attorney, Roberta Mandel, said Wednesday morning that if the appeals court did not find in her client's favor, she was prepared to seek relief from the state Supreme Court. Mandel did not immediately return telephone messages left with her office after the appeals court ruling. The Supreme Court did not immediately receive an appeal.
The appeals court judges expressed doubts about burying Smith in Texas as her mother wanted but they also questioned how Milstein could know what the wishes of Dannielynn - the only other next of kin - would be.
''You would need a crystal ball,'' Judge Barry Stone said.
In the end, the judges decided to grant Smith's wish, that she be buried in the Bahamas.
Dannielynn is living in a gated, waterfront home in the Bahamas, where a judge is hearing the child custody dispute between Arthur and Stern, who is listed as her father on the birth certificate. On Tuesday, Arthur saw the little girl for the first time and left the home in tears.
Besides Stern, two other men claim to be the father.
In Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, Judge Lawrence Korda ordered DNA samples from Smith's body be turned over to attorneys for photographer Larry Birkhead, an ex-boyfriend of the starlet.
Frederic von Anhalt, the husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, also says he could be the father. ''The Bahamas is the proper venue and the Bahamian court has already exercised jurisdiction over the minor child,'' Korda said.
Smith married Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. The reality TV star and Playboy Playmate had been fighting his family over his estimated $500 million fortune since his death in 1995, and her baby daughter could inherit millions.

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