Body of ANS Custody Battle In Progress

February 20, 2007 By:
Body of ANS Custody Battle In Progress

The heat is on between Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead in the courtroom today.

Both men who claim to be baby daddy of Dannielynnare are battling it out in the courtroom in Florida right now to determine what will happen to Smith's body.

Howard K. Stern came into the courtroom and sat just a few feet away from Larry Birkhead. Smith's opportunist mother Virgie Arthur is in the courtroom as well, and warmly embraced Birkhead before the beginning of the hearing. Anna Nicole's father Don Hogan also made a surprise appearance in court.

Judge Seidlin addressed Stern and Birkhead and said, "I expected both of you to show."

Judge Seidlin has just asked Howard K. Stern to write Dannielynn's name on the board under the word "daughter," the reason for which was not entirely clear. Stern took a marker, strode across the room somberly, and wrote the name on a sheet of white paper on the easel.

"Why are we spending so much time here?" asked the judge. "We're here to save one child."

In a sharp and intensely personal accusation, Howard K. Stern's lawyer Krista Barth complained to Judge Larry Seidlin that Larry Birkhead's lawyer Deb Opri, sitting just a few feet from Stern, accused him of "killing" Anna Nicole Smith during court proceedings this morning. As Barth spoke, Stern glared for several moments in the direction of Opri and Birkhead -- the two men and their attorneys are seated right next to each other in Broward County courtroom.

Barth made her comment as lawyers for the multiple parties in the case introduced their various pleadings. Shortly thereafter, the court went into recess for a hearing on Virgie Arthur's status as next of kin to her granddaughter Dannielynn. As of 11:00 am EST, the court is still in recess.

From channel 6 in Florida:

All the major players in the case are in a Broward County courtroom today to claim the body of the former model.

Attorneys for Howard K. Stern, Smith's longtime companion, are expected to argue that she wanted to be buried in the Bahamas next to her son Daniel. Testimony may also be heard from Smith's ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, who disputes this claim.

Birkhead is just one of the men claiming to be Smith's baby's father. His paternity claim was to be taken up at a closed-door hearing today in Los Angeles.

It's a courtroom battle that has gotten pretty nasty. Smith's mother, Vergie Arthur, Stern and Birkhead are all in the same courtroom for the very first time on Tuesday. All are expected to take the stand.

Stern's attorney claims his client has rights to the body, and according to Smith's will he's the one who has her best interest in mind.

Smith's mother disagrees.

"If Howard had really loved her, he would have helped her get off the drugs. He wouldn' t have let her keep doing them. If he truly loved her. He would have helped her. He did not help her. He let her die," Arthur told NBC 6.

Arthur's attorneys claim she's the next of kin and according to Florida law, should have rights to the body. Arthur wants to bury her daughter in her hometown in Texas.

"I think everybody knows Anna did not want to go to Texas when she was alive," said Stern's attorney, Krista Barth.

Birkhead, who has been Arthur's ally in the fight, says his interests are with Smith' s 5-month-old baby girl, Dannielynn.

The judge has appointed an administrator who is expected to make his recommendations determining who has the right to finally lay Smith's body to rest.

No expectation for an immediate answer is in sight from Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin. The judge says he will take his time and hear all the testimony before making a decision.

In the courtroom earlier today, Stern closed his eyes and rested his forehead on his hand as Smith's embalming was discussed.

A lawyer for Stern has handed over a copy of the former Playboy model's will, but it does not mention her burial wishes. Without written proof, Seidlin will be forced to hear testimony from those who claim to know what Smith wanted.