Fittingly for a larger-than-life media figure whose life was a series of dramatic twists, turns and tragedies, the death of Anna Nicole Smith on Thursday at the age of 39 has turned into yet another media circus as the cause of her death remains
The autopsy performed on the troubled reality-TV star/ former model on Friday (February 9) was inconclusive, according to Broward County Chief Medical Examiner Joshua Perper . During a press conference Friday afternoon, Perper said a nearly six-hour autopsy excluded any physical injury as a cause of death and also revealed no evidence of a large amount of drugs in Smith’s stomach, which could have indicated a deadly overdose. Perper said a small amount of blood was found in Smith’s stomach, which could be related to her going into shock before she died but that he would be unable to determine a definitive cause of death without three to five more weeks of intensive tests.
Prior to Perper’s announcement, reports surfaced that police gathered both illegal and prescription drugs from Smith’s Florida hotel room, though Seminole Police Department Chief Charlie Tiger said only prescription drugs had been found at the scene and that there was no evidence that a crime had occurred.
Aside from a small bruise that Perper said was due to a fall in the bathroom earlier in the week, he said he was unsure if the stomach flu that Smith had been suffering from all week – which on Wednesday had reportedly caused her fever to spike to 105 degrees – contributed to her death.
News channels also swarmed around the parallel story of Smith’s ex-boyfriend, photographer Larry Birkhead, who was demanding that officials take a DNA sample from her body as part of an ongoing paternity fight over Smith’s 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. Perper said enough DNA material was gathered in order to satisfy that request.
Prior to Perper’s announcement, Smith’s mother, Vergie Arthur, blamed drugs for her daughter’s demise, telling “Good Morning America” on Friday, “I think she had too many drugs, just like [Smith’s late son] Danny,” she said. “I tried to warn her about drugs and the people that she hung around with. She didn’t listen. … She was too drugged up. By the last interview I saw of her, she was so wasted.”
A toxicology report is still pending, and the results could take several weeks, though Perper stressed that it seemed unlikely Smith died from a huge overdose of pills because no intact pills were found in her stomach. He gave three possibilities of the cause of death: natural causes, an overdose of medication, and a combination of natural causes and some amount of medication.
According to reports, Smith was initially found by her nurse – the wife of Smith’s bodyguard – who noticed that the ex-model was not breathing. The nurse immediately called Smith’s lawyer and partner Howard K. Stern. It is not clear how much time elapsed before authorities were called to the scene, though Perper said the body was still warm when paramedics arrived.
CNN reported that Smith attempted suicide after the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, in September. Daniel died of a lethal combination of Zoloft, Lexapro and methadone. Daniel’s death came nine days after the September 1 birth of Smith’s daughter, Dannielynn. Smith was scheduled to take a DNA test later this month as part of an ongoing paternity suit brought by Birkhead, who claims he – not Stern – is the father of the baby girl.
Birkhead’s lawyer asked a judge to grant an immediate hearing on Friday to approve an order for a DNA test on Smith’s body as part of the paternity suit; the judge ordered Smith’s remains to be preserved pending a February 20 hearing and denied Birkhead’s request that Dannielynn be flown from the Bahamas immediately to Los Angeles to be with him.
In a bizarre development, 59-year-old Prince Frederick von Anhalt – the husband of another controversial publicity-magnet, 90-year-old actress Zsa Zsa Gabor – has said he might be the father of Smith’s baby. Gabor’s eighth husband told Smith’s death also throws into question her 12-year struggle to claim more than $470 million she said she was owed from the estate of former husband, oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall, whom she married when she was 26 and he was 89. Depending on how that case is settled, Dannielynn may be the heir to that fortune.
Sources told CNN that Smith was seriously troubled by the combination of Daniel’s death, the paternity suit and a recent class-action lawsuit against diet-pill maker TrimSpa, for which she served as a spokeswoman. She was reportedly suffering from the flu when she checked into the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on Monday, and an “Entertainment Tonight” reporter described Smith’s demeanor as sluggish and confused during interviews earlier in the week.