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Judges clear way for Smith burial

March 01, 2007|Tonya Alanez | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — A three-judge panel from the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday against Anna Nicole Smith's estranged mother, who had sought to take the tabloid star's body to her native Texas for burial.

"Anna Nicole Smith's last ascertainable wish with respect to the disposition of her remains was that she be buried in the Bahamas next to her son Daniel Wayne Smith. This finding is not essentially disputed," the judges wrote in their five-page opinion issued in West Palm Beach.

Virgie Arthur had asked the appeals court to overturn Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin's ruling from last week, which allowed for a Bahamian burial.

Wednesday night, one of Arthur's attorneys said she would not stand in the way of her daughter's burial in the Bahamas on Friday. "It's going to be difficult to appeal the ruling, so we're not going to appeal," attorney Tom Pirtle said.

Seidlin had ruled that Smith's 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn, was Smith's sole heir and next of kin, and gave control of the former Playboy centerfold's body to a court-appointed advocate for the child.

The advocate, Miami-based attorney Richard Milstein, has been planning to have Smith buried in the Bahamas. He confirmed Wednesday evening that arrangements were underway for a Friday morning funeral.

Smith, 39, died Feb. 8 after she was found unconscious in her suite at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

In arguments before the appellate panel, Arthur's attorney Roberta Mandel maintained that because Dannielynn was a minor, Arthur was next of kin and the only person with rights to Smith's remains. She said that because Smith did not leave written instructions for her burial, the choice should be left to Arthur.

The judges wondered why Smith's purchase of a four-person burial plot in the Bahamas, where she laid her son to rest, couldn't be considered written evidence. "How do you explain the fact that this is where she buried her son with whom she had such a close relationship?" Judge Barry J. Stone asked.

Stone also wondered how a guardian could ever truly know an infant's wishes. "You would need a crystal ball," he said.

Smith's body has been in cold storage at the Broward County medical examiner's office since her death. Chief Medical Examiner Joshua Perper said Wednesday evening that he was awaiting word from the Bahamas before releasing the body. He also said he was getting closer to determining Smith's cause of death, but he did not elaborate.

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