Court Clears Path For Anna Nicole Smith To Be Buried In Bahamas

Wednesday, February 28th 2007, 9:11 pm
By: News On 6

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A Florida appeals court helped clear the way Wednesday for Anna Nicole Smith to be buried in the Bahamas, saying evidence supports that it's what the former Playboy Playmate wanted.

The starlet's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, challenged last week's ruling by Judge Larry Seidlin, who gave control of the body to an advocate for Smith's 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. Arthur wanted to bury Smith in her native Texas.

But Smith's boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, had argued that she had wanted to be buried in the Bahamas next to her 20-year-old son, who died last year of apparent drug-related causes. The 4th District Court of Appeal agreed.

The trial court concluded that Smith's ``last ascertainable wish'' was to be buried alongside her son. ``This finding is not essentially disputed,'' the appellate judges said in their ruling.

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 appeal to the state Supreme Court, though an appeal was not immediately filed. Mandel did not immediately return telephone messages left with her office after the appeals court ruling.

Smith's body has been stored at a medical examiner's office since shortly after she died Feb. 8 at 39. A cause of death has not been determined.

Lawyer Richard Milstein, the baby's advocate, said in a statement Wednesday after the ruling that the funeral was set for Friday.

He declined to comment further, saying he wanted to ``uphold the decorum and dignity that should be maintained throughout this process, for the sake of Dannielynn and the memories she will have of her mother's funeral.''

Wayne Munroe, the Bahamian attorney for Smith's estate, said Wednesday's ruling by the Florida court was ``common sense.''

``Everyone in this whole saga knows what her wishes were about every aspect of her affairs _ custody, property, everything. But people are steadfastly trying to get their wishes met and not hers. Nobody seems to care about this woman's wishes.''

It was not immediately clear when the body would be moved.

Dr. Joshua Perper, the Broward County medical examiner, said that embalmers would have to take another look at the body, but that he hopes it is ``in such condition that a second viewing will be possible.'' Stern, Arthur and others have been allowed to view the body at Perper's office.

A judge in the Bahamas is hearing the child custody dispute between Arthur and Stern, who is listed as Dannielynn's 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 Smith's. Frederic von Anhalt, the husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, also says he could be the father. But Korda said he had no jurisdiction to do anything further.

``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.