- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2007

NASSAU, Bahamas — Former Playboy model and billionaire’s widow Anna Nicole Smith was finally laid to rest at a pink-splashed funeral in the Bahamas yesterday after three weeks of legal wrangling over custody of her body.

Pallbearers carried the pink-draped coffin over a red carpet into a flower-festooned church for a ceremony attended by 300 invited guests.

Later, Bahamians sang hymns as the hearse entered a Nassau cemetery where green tents provided privacy to the few dozen mourners allowed at the graveside, and police, clad in white tunics and pith helmets, made sure everyone else stayed out.

The private ceremony followed very public legal tussles over custody of the body that in life had won Mrs. Smith Playboy fame and a marriage to an 89-year-old billionaire.

A throng of Bahamians, tourists and press jostled behind police barriers as the white coffin was carried into the Mount Horeb Baptist Cathedral in Nassau.

The church was reportedly filled with pink roses, and sources close to the funeral said Mrs. Smith’s body was clad in a beaded gown and tiara.

The mourners included Mrs. Smith’s estranged mother Virgie Arthur, her longtime companion Howard K. Stern and former boyfriend Larry Birkhead.

The body was flown to the Bahamas on a private plane early yesterday, after courts in South Florida gave the go-ahead for the burial.

Mrs. Arthur wanted her daughter to be buried in her native Texas but Mr. Stern insisted Mrs. Smith had expressed the desire to be put to rest alongside her son, who died in the Bahamas in September at age 20.

A Florida appeals court on Wednesday upheld a ruling that favored a Bahamas burial.

“This she chose as her final resting place,” said Florida lawyer Richard Millstein, who was given custody of the body after a court appointed him to represent the interests of Mrs. Smith’s 5-month-old daughter in the legal dispute.

“Today we share our grief with all of you,” he said.

Speaking to the crowd outside the church, Mr. Millstein asked the press to respect the decorum of the occasion so Mrs. Smith could finally have a dignified burial.

The legal wrangling over her remains, and over paternity of her daughter, was as controversial as the life of Mrs. Smith, a buxom blonde Playboy model who fought for the estate of her wheelchair-bound oil magnate husband, and later starred in an often bizarre TV reality show.

Last week, a Florida judge known for his oddball courtroom remarks, broke into tears as he rendered his ruling in favor of a Bahamas burial.

Among those present at the hearing was Mr. Birkhead, who is fighting Mr. Stern over paternity of Mrs. Smith’s daughter Dannielynn.

Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband, Frederic von Anhalt, has also filed a lawsuit claiming he fathered the girl.

Dannielynn could inherit hundreds of millions of dollars depending on the outcome of an ongoing battle for the estate of the oil magnate Mrs. Smith married when she was 26.

Authorities in Florida have yet to disclose what caused Mrs. Smith to collapse and die in a Florida hotel room on Feb. 8 at age 39.

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