Medical examiner says more tests needed to determine cause of Smith’s death

Published 9:02 pm Monday, February 12, 2007

Several people close to Anna Nicole Smith were quick to speculate after her death that drugs were to blame. The medical examiner who performed an autopsy on her body, though, said it could take weeks to determine a cause of death.

Dr. Joshua Perper, the Broward County medical examiner who did the autopsy, said Friday that no illegal drugs were discovered in the 39-year-old Smith’s room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood after she collapsed there on Thursday.

Perper said there were prescription drugs in the room but would not identify which. He said it could take three to five weeks to conclude his investigation, which will include toxicology tests.

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CNN quoted an unidentified law enforcement source as saying there were large amounts of prescription drugs, including Valium and antibiotics, as well as over-the-counter cold and flu medication taken from Smith’s room.

But Perper said the autopsy found no immediate evidence, either in Smith’s stomach or her bloodstream, that she had taken large amounts of prescription medication. Still, officials “do not exclude any kind of contribution of medication to the death,” he added.

Michael Scott, a former attorney for Smith in the Bahamas, and Smith’s mother, Vergie Arthur, have both said they think drugs played a part in Smith’s death.

“I think she had too many drugs, just like Danny,” Arthur told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday. “I tried to warn her about drugs and the people that she hung around with. She didn’t listen.”

There was no indication Smith was the victim of a crime, Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger said, and Perper said the autopsy was able to exclude any kind of physical injury such as blows to the body or asphyxiation.

Authorities said they planned to interview a nurse and others and examine medical records before settling on a cause of death.

Meanwhile, a Los Angeles judge on Friday ordered that the Smith’s body be preserved for at least 10 days for a possible DNA test related to a paternity dispute over her daughter, Dannielynn. The judge refused to order the DNA test be carried out immediately. The ruling could interfere with plans for a funeral.

Normally, there is no need for DNA testing on the mother in a paternity case. But one of the men claiming to be the baby’s father asked for genetic material from Smith to guard against a possible baby switch.

Attorney Howard K. Stern, Smith’s most recent companion, and Larry Birkhead, a former boyfriend have both claimed to be Dannielynn’s father.

In yet another bizarre twist, a third man — the husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, Prince Frederic von Anhalt — stepped forward Friday to claim he had had an affair with Smith and may be the baby’s father.

The paternity decision could determine the child’s inheritance.

Smith had been waging a yearslong court battle at her death over the estate of her late husband, J. Howard Marshall II, who died in 1995 at age 90. A federal court in California awarded Smith $474 million, but that was later overturned.

Smith, who went from topless dancer in Texas to Playboy Playmate of the Year, Guess jeans model and bride of an 89-year-old oilman, was found unconscious in her hotel room by a private nurse, officials said. A bodyguard performed CPR, Tiger said, but Smith was declared dead at a hospital.

Smith’s 20-year-old son, Daniel, died in September of what was believed to be an accidental drug overdose, around the time Smith gave birth to her daughter.


AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles and AP writers Laura Wides-Munoz in Hollywood, Fla., and Ana Beatriz Cholo in Los Angeles contributed to this report.