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Judge's reversal clears way for Smith's burial

February 15, 2007|Charles Proctor | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles judge Wednesday withdrew his request that Florida authorities preserve the body of Anna Nicole Smith for DNA testing.

The action by Superior Court Judge Robert A. Schnider helps clear the way for the former jeans model and Playboy Playmate to be buried. Hearings are to resume today in Florida to determine who should get her body: Howard K. Stern, Smith's romantic partner; Vergie Arthur, her estranged mother; or Larry Birkhead, her ex-boyfriend.

Schnider had requested that Smith's body be preserved so her DNA could be obtained for tests to determine who is the father of her 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern.

Schnider withdrew his request during a closed session in which Joshua Perper, the medical examiner in Broward County, Fla., told the judge by telephone that Smith's DNA had already been preserved during an autopsy, said James Neavitt, Stern's attorney.

Stern, Birkhead and Prince Frederick von Anhalt, the husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor, have claimed to be the father of Dannielynn. A hearing on the paternity case is scheduled for Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Lawyers for Stern and Birkhead said they were satisfied with the judge's decision. Neavitt said he hopes this clears the hurdles for Stern to claim Smith's body. Stern has said he is the executor of Smith's will and wants to bury her in the Bahamas.

Smith, 39, was found dead Feb. 8 in a luxury hotel suite in Hollywood, Fla. The medical examiner ruled out a violent death but said it could take weeks to determine the cause.

In 1994, Smith married 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall when she was 26. His death a year later touched off a fight between Smith and Marshall's family over his $1.6-billion estate. A decision is still pending.

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charles.proctor@latimes.com

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