- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Judges on both coasts weighed in yesterday on what to do with Anna Nicole Smith’s remains 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 Mrs. Smith’s body, ordered a morgue not to release it.

A Los Angeles judge, however, 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.

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

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

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

Mr. Birkhead asked the Florida court Tuesday to enforce the California court order for DNA testing filed the day after Mrs. Smith died. Nancy Hass, an attorney for Mr. Birkhead, said the Birkhead camp feared that accurate DNA testing would not be possible if the body were released and moved out of state.

Mrs. Smith’s mother, Vergie Arthur, and Mr. Stern opposed last week’s decision by the Los Angeles judge, fearing 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 Mrs. Smith in the California paternity battle, said before the hearing in Los Angeles.

Krista Barth, another attorney for Mr. Stern, said Mrs. Smith made it clear she wanted to be buried in the Bahamas, where her son is buried, and condemned what she said were Mrs. Arthur’s efforts to bury her daughter’s body in Texas.

“I think we all know Anna wants to be next to Daniel, and anything else is a tragedy,” Miss Barth said.

Susan Brown, who with Miss Hass represented Mr. Birkhead at yesterday’s hearing in Florida, said she did not object to Mrs. Smith being embalmed.

Broward County medical examiner Joshua Perper said the former model’s body will remain refrigerated until he receives a judge’s order.

Mrs. Smith, 39, died Feb. 8 after collapsing at a hotel. She was the widow of billionaire J. Howard Marshall II, whom she married when he was 89 and she was 26. She had been fighting his family for years over his fortune.

Dannielynn could inherit millions from her mother’s estate.

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