Anna Nicole Smith's last days, last hours
Death of son, pending lawsuits plague Playboy model in final days of her life
The months leading up to Anna Nicole Smith's death at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino are like writing on the wall. In the Broward County medical examiner's 84-page report from March 2007, it details "The Last Few Months."
CLICK HERE for Part 1 of "Death of a Bombshell"
One of the most significant events, he remarks, is the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith. Vickie Lynn Hogan Smith gave birth to Daniel when she was just 18 and married to Billy Wayne Smith, a fry cook she met at Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken in Mexia, Texas.
In Dr. Joshua Perper's notes, he writes of the last few months: "Birth of daughter, Dannielynn, September 2006, death of son, Daniel, three days later -- emotionally devastating. Depression."
He then documents a near-drowning episode, which others have noted as a suicide attempt, in October 2006, which Perper says is associated with a "probable drug intoxication resulting in pneumonia." She's hospitalized for pneumonia at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas, and fluid is drained from a partially collapsed lung.
Howard K. Stern, her lawyer and companion, finds her face down in the pool at the waterfront mansion in Nassau in October 2006. Howard reportedly calls for her bodyguard, Maurice "Big Mo" Breithaupt, a trained paramedic, who pulls her from the pool and administers CPR.
Perper continues in his report: "Suicidal comments in short term after son's death. Additional stressors: paternity suit, suit regarding ownership of residence in the Bahamas."
She's fighting with the owners of the mansion she's living in called Horizons, a waterfront estate in Nassau on idyllic Eastern Road, who want her, Howard and newborn baby Dannielynn out of the house. Smith claims the home was a gift from South Carolina developer G. Ben Thompson and she holds the deed to the property, but Thompson says he only loaned Anna the house with a promise that she would pay him $900,000. He says she hasn't paid him.
Talking about the death of Daniel
In a Nov. 2, 2006, segment on "Good Morning America," a distraught Anna Nicole Smith breaks down as she talks about the death of her son, Daniel, and the house dispute. It previews an exclusive interview she's done with "Entertainment Tonight," the first time she's talked publicly about Daniel's death.
Stern is seated next to her.
"Horrible that everyone is throwing everything on us at our lowest point in life," Smith says.
She tells the entertainment news program that she will never accept the reality that Daniel is gone. She breaks down, sobbing uncontrollably: "I don't understand why God took him and didn't take me."
Her son died only three days after Smith gives birth to her daughter on Sept. 7, 2006. Daniel dies in her hospital room on Sept. 10, 2006. His cause of death? A lethal and accidental combination of two anti-depressants and methadone.
Daniel's autopsy is performed on Sept. 11, 2006, at the public Princess Margaret Hospital, just four minutes away from Doctors Hospital, the private Bahamian hospital where he dies and Dannielynn is born.
But on Sept. 17, 2006, a second autopsy takes place. Stern calls noted forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht, who has consulted on high-profile cases: Elvis Presley, Jon Benet Ramsey, Laci Peterson and Chandra Levy. He is summoned to Broward County five months later to conduct a second autopsy on Smith upon her death in Florida. He writes two chapters in a book called "A Question of Murder" about the deaths of Anna Nicole Smith and her son.
I ask Wecht: "How did you get involved?"
"One day, I got a call from Howard K. Stern, who I didn't know, and he asked me if I could come down (to the Bahamas) and do an autopsy on Daniel Smith," Wecht says. "I knew nothing about the case at that time. I'm sure I didn't know anything about it. I said, 'Yes' and got the necessary papers to leave the country and I went down there. I hadn't had any previous contact with them or Howard K. Stern."
"Did Stern feel that maybe the Bahamas hadn't done a thorough autopsy?" I ask.
"I don't recall him expressing any concern about that," Wecht says. "I never ask people. What was concluded at that time was that ultimately the cause of death was a combination of three different drugs -- methadone, along with antidepressants Lexapro and Zoloft. Ultimately, it was determined with no question at all of the cause of death, and no question at all: It was accidental. It wasn't suicide. And there's no question in my mind, it was not homicide."
But, there are questions that Wecht still, to this day, ponders.
"I'm not sure myself, did he bring drugs with him? Did he get drugs from his mother's room? Did Howard Stern, and not maliciously, but possibly have drugs to share with him celebrating the arrival of his half-sister, whom he seemed very overjoyed with?" Wecht says. "But there was no question that it was accidental. It was not suicide. No question in my mind that it was not homicide. I am aware that people said that Howard Stern got rid of the son. It's bullshit and totally absurd. Unequivocal and, in my opinion, the manner of death after all the other drug deaths I experience, was different drugs combined. People don't realize (the consequences). I think he was a novice with the methadone."
Stern appears on "Larry King Live" on Sept. 19, 2006, 10 days after Daniel's death, describing Anna Nicole's downward emotional state.
"She's struggling with her emotions," he says. "It's been very rough, and she said that she didn't want to trade out children: one to be born and another to die."
But Stern has his own stresses. There are the accusations that Stern somehow contributed to Daniel's death. Even though Wecht and the Bahamian pathologist concluded that Smith died from an accidental overdose of methadone and two antidepressants in his system, on March 31, 2008, a seven-member Bahamas jury deliberates for two hours, recommending no criminal charges in Daniel Smith's death. Over the course of the case, which began in November, more than two dozen witnesses are called.
Daniel's drug use
Smith's former boyfriend and father of her daughter, Dannielynn, is one of those who testifies.
I ask Larry Birkhead about how Daniel's death affected Anna Nicole and his take on Daniel's use of drugs.
"Do you think Daniel's death was her demise?" I say.
"I remember talking to her on the phone, and when she wasn't talking about Daniel, she just couldn't even talk," Birkhead says. "It was just one of those things that she couldn't have recovered from. I think if I could've gotten down there, I could have helped her more. If it wasn't all the court stuff going on (the paternity case), it could've been different."
And as far as Daniel's drug use?
"You know, the thing is that Daniel … (I knew) things that a lot of people didn't know that I knew that people weren't privileged to. I had to sit back and listen to Anna's mother mouth off to the press that Daniel never did this and Daniel never took drugs. She hadn't seen Daniel for years, so she wouldn't know what Daniel did. He went through a drastic change in weight, and it led his mom to question things."
At the inquest, Birkhead testified, according to The Associated Press, that Daniel was a "troubled young man who struggled with drugs and alcohol."
"Unfortunately, Daniel had issues," Stern's friend and attorney, Krista Barth, says. "Before Daniel died, Anna was gone for a period of time. She had been in the Bahamas for some time, so I don't know at the time that Daniel and Anna were as close as they had been. They certainly weren't living together. And Daniel, at that point, was an adult and making some decisions that might not have been the best. Had Anna been home, she may have known these things. By home, at that point, I mean in California. I think at the period of time when Daniel came down, it wasn't known exactly what was going on with Daniel. Certainly, he had some problems back home. This didn't happen out of nowhere, as people say, 'some big mystery.' People that use drugs overdose. That's not an unusual thing. It created the perfect storm (for Daniel): Mom was away and Daniel was living on his own and Daniel had some -- again, I didn't know -- but from what I've come to understand is that he had anxiety issues. None of us were there, but certainly it had nothing to with his mom or with Howard or anybody else."
Final week, final days
There are many ominous titles in Perper's report, but there is this one: "The Final Week." He states that while in the Bahamas, Anna Nicole has injections of B12 or human growth hormone into her buttocks. He writes, "She plans a trip from Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale for Monday, Feb. 5, 2007."
His timeline lays out that she has an 11 a.m. dance lesson in preparation for a music video and participation in a TrimSpa celebration; that she planned to shop for furniture in Miami for her Bahamas home and had stated an intention to psychiatrist and friend Dr.Khristine Eroshevich that she would marry Stern on Feb. 28, 2007; and that, prior to the flight, her left buttock was injected with either vitamin B12 or immune protective medications.
Perper says that during the flight on Feb. 5, 2007, she complains of pain in the left buttock while seated. Then she complains of cold and severe chills in the limousine ride to the Seminole Hard Rock. She is checked into room 607 at 7:30 p.m. Already she has a temperature of 105 degrees.
After her death, Perper explains the turn of events at a press conference.
"When she arrived to the hotel at about 7:30, her temperature was extremely high, 105 degrees Fahrenheit," Perper says. "She was asked by her friends to go to an emergency-room hospital, to call 911, and she firmly refused."
Her status would rapidly decline from there. On that Monday evening, she falls asleep at 10 p.m. after taking a dose of chloral hydrate. Perper states that the recommended dose is 1 to 2 teaspoons prior to bed. But Smith had her own routine. She would take 2 tablespoons or, as he notes, sometimes drink directly from the bottle.
The next morning, a nurse traveling with her tells investigators after her death that there was "a pungent odor" emanating from her. Perper says it is apparently sweat that is soaking the sheets. In the afternoon, she takes more chloral hydrate and sleeps for two hours.
Smith doesn't leave the hotel room.
She continues to take the chloral hydrate and other medications. On Wednesday, Feb. 7, the day before her death, she eats breakfast: an egg white omelet with spinach. That afternoon, the nurse finds her naked and confused, sitting in a dry bathtub. For dinner, she eats two crab cakes and shrimp ordered from room service. She becomes upset when her friend, Dr. Eroshevich, says she must leave town that evening. She begs her to stay. At 10 p.m., she watches TV.
On Thursday, Feb. 8, she takes more chloral hydrate before falling asleep in the early morning. Howard tells investigators that when he wakes up sometime around 9 or 10 a.m., Smith is awake, but says she feels weak and asks him to help her to the bathroom and then back to bed. Perper's report says at 12 p.m. she is seen sleeping by Tasma Brighthaupt, a registered nurse, who is married to "Big Mo."
By 1 p.m., Brigitte Nevens, a woman traveling with Smith from the Bahamas, realizes she is unable to be awakened. Tasma telephones her husband to have him call 911.
Remember, Howard is at the boat dock, and by this time is racing back to the hotel.
At 1:40 p.m., paramedics are called, and they arrive at 1:46 p.m. They administer CPR and advanced cardiac life support, including medications such as atropine, an antidote used to treat overdose.
The ambulance arrives at Memorial Regional Hospital at 2:43 p.m. Smith is pronounced dead at 2:49 p.m.
On Feb. 9, Perper arrives at his office like he does every day, but today, the woman who is waiting inside for him inside the morgue isn't his usual case. The Broward County medical examiner will, too, be thrust into the spotlight.
The autopsy, the tattoos
The autopsy, obtained by The Florida Files, is dated Feb. 9, 2007.
Perper's notes: Acute combined drug intoxication is the cause of death; the most toxic drug is chloral hydrate. He lists other drugs present: diphenhydramine (Benadryl); clonazepam (Klonapin); diazepam (valium); nordiazepam (metabolite); temazepam (metabolite); oxazepam; lorazepam. He says other non-contributor drugs were present in her body -- atropine (could that be from the EMS treatment? Probably), acetaminophen, topiramate and ciprofloxacin.
He also points out the abscess from the left buttock that appeared infected and chronic repeated injections of various medications in the buttocks. He mentions bilateral breast implants with scarring.
Perper describes much about the body, and there is a description of tattoos on the body.
A pair of red lips in the right lower abdominal quadrant.
Two red cherries are on the right mid-pelvis. A Playboy bunny is on the left anterior mid-pelvis.
The words "Daniel" and "Papas" are on the mid-anterior pelvis region.
A mixed tattoo on the right lower leg and ankle represents: Christ's head; Our Lady of Guadalupe; the Holy Bible; the naked torso of a woman; the smiling face of Marilyn Monroe, a cross, a heart and shooting flames.
A mermaid on a flower bed with a pair of lips underneath it laying across the lower back.
His opinion: Vickie Lynn Marshall was a 39-year-old white female who died of acute combined drug intoxication. Abscesses of buttocks and viral enteritis were contributory causes of death. The manner of death is determined to be: "ACCIDENT."
On Feb. 19, 2007, he writes that additional laboratory tests are still pending. His report digs deep into chloral hydrate and chloral hydrate toxicity.
Anna Nicole and the Marilyn Monroe connection
Wecht says he is intrigued by Smith's use of chloral hydrate, a drug the doctor says hasn't been prescribed much in years.
"Her death was primarily due to chloral hydrate," Wecht says. "The suggestion there is as conjuncture, but not wild conjuncture, is she tried to emulate Marilyn Monroe in many respects, and that was the drug that led to Marilyn Monroe's death. It's a sedative that used to be quite popular. It's a legal drug that is still around and somehow that's the only thing I can think of chloral hydrate: why anyone would prescribe that drug? I don't see it in any of my toxicology reports, come to think of it. How the hell would Anna Nicole Smith get it? The only thing that makes sense is that Marilyn used it and that's what she wanted to use."
In a television interview, Anna Nicole Smith talks about her obsession with Marilyn Monroe.
"She's been my idol for many, many years," Smith says. "I just love her. She's wonderful. She's a wonderful actress. She's funny. I love all her movies. I have everything you can imagine of hers at my home. A lot of people give me presents that have Marilyn Monroe on them because they know that I really like her because I have pictures (of her) everywhere in my house."
Meanwhile, Smith's body will remain at the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office while the battle for where her body will be buried begins to play out in court.
'This body belongs to me now'
On Feb. 14, 2007, a court hearing begins -- a virtual three-ring circus over who will decide what happens to Smith's body. It's now been almost a week since the Playboy Playmate was taken to the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office.
Stern says she should be buried in the Bahamas, according to her wishes, but Virgie Arthur, Smith's mother, wants to take her daughter's body to Texas. Both sides want to settle the matter quickly because, according to the coroner, the body is beginning to deteriorate.
The judge appointed to the case -- Judge Larry Seidlin for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida in Broward County -- says the body isn't going anywhere.
He tells a packed room of lawyers in his courthouse chambers a directive that became notorious and was splashed across tabloids across the world.
"This body belongs to me now," Seidlin says. "I'm not releasing the body. From what I read, this body is staying right here. It's cold, but it won't decompose so fast. That baby's in a cold, cold storage room. It's not decaying so fast. I can go over there now and look at it. And go back in a month and still look at it. So there's no rush. We're not rushing. We're crossing every 't' and dotting every 'i.'"
Up next on The Florida Files, the battle for Smith's body wages on as the media circus comes to Broward County.
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