Anna Nicole's Death: The Key Questions
February 9, 2007 2:38am CST
Following Anna Nicole Smith's death Thursday in Florida, many key questions remain: How did she die? Unknown. An autopsy Friday and a toxicology test will ultimately decide cause of death. Smith had battled health problems recently and there was a nurse in the hotel room with her. It's not known why the nurse was there, but Smith was hospitalized in November for pneumonia and suffered flu-like symptoms before her death. Also, Cyril Wecht, the Smith-hired pathologist who believed Smith's son died of a combination of medication and a heart condition, says that Smith could have had the same heart problem. What's the status of the inheritance? It had been looking good for Smith. She claimed her late husband, oil billionaire husband J. Howard Marshall II, promised her millions. After he died in 1995, she tangled with Marshall's son. A California bankruptcy judge awarded Smith $474 million, later overruled by a federal judge who reduced it to $88 million. An appeals court then ruled she was entitled to nothing because the federal courts lacked jurisdiction in a matter that should be handled in Texas state court. But the Supreme Court recently overturned that decision, and allowed lawyers to go the next round in federal court, which is where the case stands. Would Dannielynn get the inheritance? Unknown. As Smith's only surviving child – son Daniel died three days after Danielynn's birth – the daughter is theoretically entitled to most if not nearly all of Smith's estate, including any inheritance. Smith's death, however, throws the already tangled inheritance fight into chaos. Also, it's still unknown whether Smith had a will, and, if so, what provisions she made for her daughter. If she died without a will, by law everything would go to Dannielynn. The matter likely will be tied up in courts for years. Were Howard K. Stern and Anna Nicole Smith ever legally married? No. They had what they called a "commitment ceremony" on Sept. 28 in the Bahamas, but it was not legally binding under Bahamian or American law. "They were partners, soul mates," says Smith's lawyer. Who is Dannielynn's father? Unclear. Both Stern and photographer Larry Birkhead, a former boyfriend of Smith's, claim paternity. Just the day before Smith's death, the judge in a suit brought by Birkhead ordered DNA tests of Smith and the baby to determine the father. Shortly after she died, Birkhead's lawyers sought an emergency order to have DNA taken from Smith's corpse, which Smith's attorney denounced as "the lowest form of behavior one could imagine." Who will have custody of Dannielynn? For now, Stern. The question of custody is intertwined with paternity, and the courts will ultimately decide. Currently, Stern considers himself the father and is maintaining custody of the baby, though at the time of Smith's death, the child was in the Bahamas with friends of Smith. Was she taking drugs at the time of her death? Yes, flu medication, according to a source. The toxicology test will determine whether she had been taking any other legal or illegal drugs. Smith also was under a psychiatrist's care, but it wasn't known whether she was taking drugs as part of her treatment. Why was she in Florida? Apparently for vacation. Police say she was a "frequent patron" of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., and had shot a TrimSpa video there last year. She had checked in on Monday and was scheduled to leave on Friday. Is Stern a suspect? Not identified. Police have not even determined if there was foul play, much less identified anybody as a suspect. Stern had gone to Florida with Smith, but police have not disclosed whether he was in the hotel room with her when she collapsed. How does this affect the investigation into her son's death? It doesn't. Bahamian authorities will go forward next month with the inquest into 20-year-old Daniel's death last September. Authorities want to hear from Stern, who was present during Daniel's death and was also with Anna Nicole during her trip to Florida.