Legal Battle Over Smith's Body Not Over - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

02/23/07 - Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Legal Battle Over Smith's Body Not Over

Two men seeking paternity rights to the 5-month-old daughter of Anna Nicole Smith said Thursday they have agreed Smith should be buried in the Bahamas, next to her son Daniel.

The men made the announcement to reporters a few minutes after a tearful Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin awarded custody of the body to Richard Milstein, guardian ad litem of the infant, Dannielynn.

But Thomas W. Pirtle, an attorney for Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, said an appeal would be formally filed Friday in Florida's 4th District Court of Appeals.

Arthur had wanted to bring Smith home to her native Texas.

Smith died February 8 in a Florida hotel, but the cause is still unknown.

In handing down his decision, Seidlin directed Milstein to consult with Howard K. Stern, Smith's partner and lawyer at the time of her death; Larry Birkhead, Smith's former boyfriend; and Smith's mother.

Shortly after the ruling, it appeared all the parties had agreed to a burial in the Bahamas. Arthur stood with Stern and Birkhead as they announced their agreement to reporters.

Stern and Birkhead both claim to have fathered Dannielynn.

"I'm very grateful that Anna Nicole's wishes are going to be carried out," Stern told reporters outside the courthouse. "That's all that matters."

Said Birkhead: "We all loved Anna and it's in her best interest to come together."

Broward County Medical Examiner Joshua Perper predicted the appeal would be dismissed in short order. "Probably in a day or two there's going to be a final decision," he told reporters. "So we'll be able to make the arrangements."

Seidlin made no secret of his wishes: "I want her buried with her son in the Bahamas," he told a stunned courtroom. "I want them to be together."

Perper said Seidlin had asked him to accompany the body to the Bahamas to ensure the burial is carried out properly. Perper said he would comply.

In addition, the consulate for the Bahamas must approve any transfer by certifying that the body is free of infectious disease.

Until then, the body -- which Perper said is in "excellent condition" -- is to remain with the medical examiner's office.

Perper, who carried out the autopsy, said it will likely take another 10 to 14 days before he can determine the cause of death, but expressed confidence he would be able to do so.

"At this time, we don't have any evidence of foul play," he said about Smith's death.

Thursday's ruling capped several days of unusual courtroom proceedings that touched on child custody and paternity, though the issue at hand was limited to the disposition of Smith's body. Some called the proceedings a circus.

Before ruling, Seidlin told the parties in the case, "I feel for you, I absolutely feel for you."

"I've reviewed absolutely everything. I've suffered with this," Seidlin said.

He addressed Smith's mother several times as "mama" and told her and the others he was trying to reach an equitable decision.

Thursday's decision does not mean that legal issues related to Smith will end soon. Birkhead's lawyers filed a motion in a Florida family court asking for an emergency hearing to be held Friday morning to request that a DNA sample be taken from Dannielynn.

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.

Story courtesy of CNN Newsource.

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