Anna Nicole Smith spent the last days of her life drifting in and out of consciousness under the pale blue comforter of a king-sized hotel bed, too weak to walk, sit up or drink from anything other than a baby bottle, according to court testimony Tuesday.
The description of the period preceding the supermodel's 2007 death from an overdose of a sedative and other drugs came on the opening day of a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to try two physicians and Smith's boyfriend for conspiring to illegally furnish the 39-year-old with prescription medications.
Smith died at a hospital in Hollywood, Fla., near the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, where she had been staying. A medical examiner ruled her death an accident. But a multi-agency task force spent two years investigating how she obtained opiates, sedatives and other drugs -- 44 different medications -- before her death.
Prosecutors ultimately charged two Los Angeles doctors who wrote her prescriptions, Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor, and her longtime companion and attorney, Howard K. Stern, with offenses that include prescribing controlled substances to an addict and obtaining prescriptions under a false name. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Special Agent Danny Santiago of the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement summarized an investigation that stretched from pharmacies in the San Fernando Valley to the casino hotel lobby. When Smith arrived at the reception desk Feb. 5, 2007, accompanied by Stern and Eroshevich, a psychiatrist, there were already signs that Smith was ill, Santiago testified.
The hotel employee who greeted the group recalled Smith, a repeat customer, leaning on Stern to walk and seeming "out of it."
"He just stated she wasn't her normal vivacious self," Santiago testified that the employee told him.
Another hotel employee assigned to act as Smith's personal assistant recalled Eroshevich telling her the model had the flu and asking for help in getting a prescription, Santiago said.
The hotel dispatched a doctor to go to the room and treat Smith, but then received another call from Stern, the detective testified.
"We don't need him anymore," the hotel employee quoted Stern as saying, according to the detective. When the employee protested that the physician was on his way, Stern cited concerns about negative press coverage.
"They didn't want any leaks about Anna's physical condition," Santiago said.
Tabloid reporters had hounded Smith since the birth of her daughter and the death of her son in the Bahamas five months before.
Many of the dozen pill bottles found in the hotel suite where Smith died were prescribed by Eroshevich the month before at a Studio City pharmacy in the names of aliases, Santiago said.
Eroshevich was Smith's next-door neighbor when the model lived in Studio City and had traveled to be with Smith in the Bahamas after the death of her son, Daniel, the detective testified.
Santiago said that when detectives asked Stern where Smith's baby was, he told them that the infant girl, Dannielynn, had stayed behind in the Bahamas and that the baby bottle on the nightstand was for the model.
"She was so weak that that was the only way she could drink the Pedialyte," Santiago testified.
When the detective related how a family friend came upon Smith's lifeless body in the hotel bed Feb. 8, 2007, Stern hunched forward in his chair in the courtroom and covered his face with his hands.
On cross-examination, lawyers for Eroshevich and Stern said that both cooperated with authorities investigating the death and acknowledged immediately that Smith used aliases to get prescriptions to preserve her privacy.
Under questioning by a lawyer for Stern, Santiago said that a hotel employee told him Smith, not Stern, was "always the boss, always in control" and that the "ditziness" was an act.
He also recounted a conversation in which Stern told him that Smith needed certain drugs because she suffered from seizures and had back pain caused by her breast enlargements.
During that conversation, Stern blamed a seizure for Smith's seeming to be drugged during a 2006 American Music Awards appearance.
In a video clip shown to Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry, a svelte Smith sashayed across the American Music Award stage in a tight black dress to introduce rapper Kanye West.
She got a round of applause after purring "Like my body?" But then she began slurring her words and the house lights dimmed before she got to the introduction.