Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lepaparazzi News Update: What Will Happen with Anna Nicole Smith's Body

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Judges on both coasts weighed in Wednesday on what to do with Anna Nicole Smith's body amid the custody dispute over her infant daughter, moving closer to releasing the former Playboy Playmate's body for burial.

A Florida judge, citing a California court's order last week for DNA testing on Smith's body, ordered a morgue not to release the body. However, a Los Angeles judge quickly lifted a request that the body be held.

"California has no need for the body of Anna Nicole," said James Neavitt, an attorney for Howard K. Stern, one of several men claiming paternity of 5-month-old Dannielynn.

Neavitt said Florida officials who performed the autopsy on Smith have preserved her DNA.

Attorneys for Stern, Smith's mother and an ex-lover of Smith's went back to court in Florida Wednesday, each seeking custody of the body. Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin made no ruling, but the hearing was to resume Thursday morning.

Another Florida judge had ordered the body held for 10 days after a brief meeting in his chambers Wednesday morning with attorneys for photographer Larry Birkhead, who claims to be the baby's father.

Birkhead petitioned the Florida court Tuesday, asking that the California court order for DNA testing filed Friday — the day after Smith died — be enforced in Florida.

Nancy Hass, an attorney for Birkhead, said the Birkhead camp feared that accurate DNA testing would not be possible if the body was released and moved out of state.

Smith's mother, Vergie Arthur, and Stern had been opposing last week's decision by the Los Angeles judge. Stern and Smith's mother also fear that if the body is not embalmed, even though it is refrigerated, it will not be suitable for viewing or funeral purposes.

"We would just want ... to proceed with a proper burial," Ron Rale, the attorney who had represented Smith in the California court battle over paternity, said before the hearing in Los Angeles.

"According to Anna's wishes, it (the body) should be released to Howard Stern, not to Vergie," Rale said. "No one should go about touching Anna Nicole."

The Florida request was made so that work done to secure the Los Angeles court order "not be in vain," said another Birkhead attorney, Debra Opri.

A Bahamian judge issued an injunction Tuesday preventing the baby from being taken out of the country until the custody case is resolved. Arthur wants to be named guardian of her granddaughter and sought the order because she feared Stern would take the child from the Bahamas, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Arthur has said she fears for the baby's safety, noting Stern was present when Smith died and when Smith's son, Daniel, died in the Bahamas in September, three days after Dannielynn was born. Stern has said Smith hated her mother.

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