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More tests needed in Smith death case

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Posted: Friday, February 9, 2007 1:05 pm | Updated: 5:51 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

DANIA BEACH, Fla. - More tests will be necessary to determine the cause of Anna Nicole Smith's death, but no illegal drugs were found in her hotel room, officials said Friday.

It's possible Smith's died of natural causes, because of some medication or from a combination of reasons, said Dr. Joshua Perper, the chief medical examiner for Broward County, who performed the autopsy.

The autopsy was able to exclude any types of physical injury such as gunshot wound, asphyxiation or blunt trauma on the body of the 39-year-old former Playboy playmate and reality TV star, Perper said.

It revealed only "subtle findings" in the heart and gastrointestinal tract, and blood in her stomach from being in shock before she died, Perper said. Minor bruises on her back were from a previous fall in the bathroom, he said.

"There were no findings that would indicate continuing drug abuse," Perper said. He called the process a "medical puzzle" and said it would take three to five weeks to conclude the investigation.

Smith apparently had been sick for several days with some kind of stomach flu, Perper said.

Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger said investigators "found no illegal drugs, only prescription medicines" in Smith's hotel room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood. Nothing unusual was observed on hotel surveillance tapes, and there was no evidence to suggest a crime occurred, he said.

On Thursday, a private nurse found Smith unconscious in her room and called 911, officials said. A bodyguard performed CPR, Tiger said, but Smith was declared dead at a hospital.

The autopsy was performed Friday on Smith, whose mother blamed drugs for the former Playboy playmate's sudden death that ended an extraordinary tabloid life.

In another bizarre twist to the case, the husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, Prince Frederick von Anhalt, claimed that he might be the father of Smith's infant daughter.

Two other men are already waging a paternity battle over the little girl, who stands to inherit Smith's estate. Von Anhalt, 59, told The Associated Press he and Smith had been having an affair since the 1990s. "She wanted to be a princess," he said.

"I think she had too many drugs, just like Danny (Smith's late son)," Smith's mother, Vergie 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."

"She was too drugged up," Arthur said. "By the last interview I saw of her, she was so wasted."

Smith's attorney, Ron Rale, said the one-time reality TV star had been ill for several days with a fever and was still depressed over the death five months ago of her 20-year-old son from what a private medical examiner determined was a combination of methadone and two antidepressants.

Late Thursday, sheriff's deputies carried out at least eight brown paper bags sealed with red evidence tape from Smith's hotel room.

Several detectives are reviewing the hotel surveillance tapes to see if they might provide a clue to what happened, Deputy Police Chief Michael Browne said Friday. He said they had interviewed everyone connected to the death and no one was under suspicion.

"Nothing about this death seems suspicious. We're not treating it that way," Browne said. "We're being very thorough. We're going to look at everything."

If Smith died of natural causes, the findings will likely be announced quickly, but definitive results could take weeks, said Dr. Joshua Perper, who was performing the autopsy.

"I am not a prophet, and I cannot tell you before the autopsy what I am going to find," he said.

Smith's son's death in the Bahamas on Sept. 10 came just a few days after she gave birth to a daughter, Dannielynn, whose custody remains in dispute.

The birth certificate lists Dannielynn's father as attorney Howard K. Stern, Smith's most recent companion, who Rale said was with Smith at the hotel and was too choked up to talk when he called Rale with the news. Smith's ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead is waging a legal challenge, saying he is the father.

At a hearing Friday in Los Angeles, a judge declined Birkhead's attorney's request to order an immediate DNA sample be taken from Smith's body. The judge ordered the body be retained, though, until a hearing on Feb. 20, attorney Debra Opri said.

Opri said the DNA is needed to connect Smith with Dannielynn "so that no one can switch the babies."

She also asked the judge to take jurisdiction over the child until her paternity is established. "Nothing was granted. Nothing was denied," she said.

Rale, Smith's attorney, said it was "despicable that we would have an emergency notice and appear right now."

Gabor's husband, von Anhalt, said Friday that he would file a lawsuit if Dannielynn is turned over to Stern or Birkhead. He said he and Smith started their long affair after she approached him and Gabor at the Plaza Hotel in New York while she was still married to Marshall.

"If you go back from September, she wasn't with one of those guys, she was with me," von Anhalt said.

The baby was being cared for in the Bahamas by the mother of Shane Gibson, the Bahamian immigration minister who is a close friend of Smith's, People magazine reported on its Web site, citing unidentified sources.

A visibly shaken Gibson declined comment as he was leaving his office Thursday night, and he has not responded to several message left by the AP seeking comment.

Through the '90s and into the 21st century, Smith was famous for being famous, a pop-culture punchline because of her up-and-down weight, her Marilyn Monroe looks, her exaggerated curves, her little-girl voice, her ditzy-blonde persona and her over-the-top revealing outfits.

Recently, she lost a reported 69 pounds and became a spokeswoman for TrimSpa, a weight-loss supplement. In recent TV appearances, her speech was often slurred and she seemed out of it. Some critics said she seemed drugged-out.

"Undoubtedly it will be found at the end of the day that drugs featured in her death as they did in the death of poor Daniel," said Michael Scott, a former attorney for Smith in the Bahamas.

Rale said he had talked to her on Tuesday or Wednesday, and she had flu symptoms and a fever and was still grieving over her son. He dismissed claims her death was related to drugs as "a bunch of nonsense."

"Poor Anna Nicole," he said. "She's been the underdog. She's been besieged ... and she's been trying her best and nobody should have to endure what she's endured."

The Texas-born Smith was a topless dancer at a strip club before she made the cover of Playboy magazine in 1992. She became Playboy's playmate of the year in 1993. She was also signed to a contract with Guess jeans, appearing in TV commercials, billboards and magazine ads.

In 1994, she married 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, owner of Great Northern Oil Co. After his death the following year, she engaged in a protracted legal fight with her former stepson, E. Pierce Marshall, over whether she had a right to the estate.

A federal court in California awarded Smith $474 million. That was later overturned. But in May, the U.S. Supreme Court revived her case, ruling that she deserved another day in court.

The stepson died June 20 at age 67, but the family said the court fight would continue.

Smith starred in her own reality TV series, "The Anna Nicole Show," in 2002-04. She also appeared in movies, performing a bit part in "The Hudsucker Proxy" in 1994.

Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan on Nov. 28, 1967, in Houston, one of six children. Her parents split up when she was a toddler, and she was raised by her mother, a deputy sheriff.

She dropped out after 11th grade after she was expelled for fighting, and worked as a waitress and then a cook at Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken restaurant in Mexia, Texas.

She married 16-year-old fry cook Bill Smith in 1985, giving birth to Daniel before divorcing two years later.

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