Police investigating the sudden death yesterday of Anna Nicole Smith found prescription medications, but no illegal drugs, in her South Florida hotel room, and an autopsy was inconclusive on what caused her to collapse and die, authorities said today.
"We found no illegal drugs, only prescription medicines," Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger told reporters in a news conference. He declined to name the medications.
Joshua Perper, the chief medical examiner of Broward County, said a six-hour autopsy had ruled out "any kind of physical injury" as the cause of Smith's death. He also said there was no visible sign of any massive drug overdose but that medications or chemicals cannot be ruled out as factors until toxicology and other tests are completed.
"At this time we do not make a determination of the cause and manner of death," Perper said. He said he would also examine Smith's medical records and interview witnesses who were with her, including a private nurse, before releasing his findings, which he said could take three to five weeks.
Perper said the autopsy "revealed only subtle findings" in the heart and gastrointestinal system that look "a little bit unusual" and require further microscopic examination. He said such findings "can be indications of an inflammatory process in the heart which is not visible by the naked eye." A microscopic examination "may verify a significant process, or it may be nothing," he said.
Smith, a former Playboy playmate who gained national notoriety when she married an 89-year-old oil tycoon, died yesterday at age 39 after she collapsed in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Her sudden death immediately stirred speculation about drug abuse, including from her own mother. In September last year, Smith's 20-year-old son by her first marriage died while visiting her in a hospital in the Bahamas, where she had just given birth to a daughter. The death of Daniel Smith was subsequently ruled the accidental result of a combination of drugs, including methadone and two antidepressants.
"I think she had too many drugs, just like Danny," Smith's mother, Vergie Arthur, told ABC's "Good Morning America" in an interview this morning. "I tried to warn her about drugs and the people that she hung around with. She didn't listen."
Arthur, whom ABC described as "somewhat estranged" from her daughter, said she last saw Smith in a television interview. "But she was too drugged up," Arthur said. "She was so wasted."
Smith's sudden demise yesterday afternoon did nothing to stop the legal wrangling or controversy surrounding her. In addition to a protracted legal tussle for a share of her late husband's fortune, Smith had been embroiled in a court battle over the paternity of her newborn daughter, Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern.
In Los Angeles, a judge in that case today refused to order an emergency DNA test on Smith's remains but demanded that her body be preserved until a Feb. 20 hearing. The five-month-old baby currently is in the care of a friend of Smith's in the Bahamas.
Smith had said the girl was fathered by her lawyer and longtime companion, Howard K. Stern, who is listed on a birth certificate as her father. A couple of weeks after her birth, Smith and Stern exchanged vows on a catamaran off the coast of the Bahamas in a ceremony that reportedly fell short of a formal marriage.
But Smith's former boyfriend, photographer Larry Birkhead, asserted that he was the baby's father and filed a lawsuit to press his paternity claim. Birkhead's lawyer, Debra Opri, sought an emergency order for Smith's DNA today in what she said was a move to ensure that the infant to be tested is really Smith's.
"It's very important that DNA connect Anna Nicole with the baby being tested," Opri told reporters after the hearing. "We do not want a bait and switch of a child."
A lawyer representing Smith and Stern, Ron Rale, called that rationale "nonsense" and expressed outrage that Birkhead had dragged the case back into court within hours of Smith's death.
Rale said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider was not sure he had jurisdiction to demand DNA from Smith's body.
In any case, Perper, the medical examiner who helped perform today's autopsy, said plenty of DNA was preserved from the procedure to meet any legal requests.
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, the Associated Press reported. Von Anhalt, 59, told the news agency that he and Smith had been having an affair since the 1990s and that "she wanted to be a princess."
Tiger, the Seminole police chief, said there was no evidence "to suggest that a crime occurred" leading to Smith's death. He told reporters that police were continuing to view surveillance hotel tapes but that "nothing unusual has been observed."
Perper said Smith "had apparently been sick for several days with some kind of stomach flu" before she was found "collapsed and unconscious" in her room yesterday at around 1 p.m. EST. He said she was "virtually dead on arrival" at a local hospital and was pronounced dead at about 2:40 p.m. yesterday.
The only physical injury revealed by the autopsy was a "minor bruise" on Smith's back that was apparently caused when she fell in her bathroom several days ago, Perper said.
He said there was "a small amount of blood" in her stomach," which he attributed to "terminal shock" shortly before she died.
However, the autopsy found no tablets or pills in Smith's stomach or any other visible indication of a drug overdose, Perper said. Moreover, he said, "there are no findings which would indicate continued drug abuse."
Nevertheless, a drug overdose still cannot be ruled out, he said, and further tests are needed.
Perper said there were "three major possibilities" for the cause of Smith's death at this point: solely natural causes, "some medication or chemicals," or "a combination of natural causes and medication."
"At this time we do not have results of tests which permit us to make a finding," he said.
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is an 86-acre resort on a Seminole Indian reservation near Hollywood, Fla. The 80-officer Seminole Police Department, created in 1981, is not subject to Florida's public records laws and thus does not have to disclose information such as 911 tapes to the public.
Tiger said today that he does not plan to release the tape of the 911 call made yesterday after Smith collapsed, and he declined to specify what was in several bags of evidence that police removed from the scene.