Legal War Rages on Over Smith's Body

It's a drama that may equal the one that she faced in life: Who gets to decide where to bury Anna Nicole Smith's body?

Smith's companion and lawyer, Howard K. Stern, and her mother, Virgie Arthur, have enlisted a small army of lawyers to wage a legal battle. Stern wants to bury Smith's body in the Bahamas next to her deceased son, Daniel. Arthur wants to bring her daughter home to Texas.

There were a staggering 14 attorneys present for Stern, Arthur, and also Smith's ex-lover Larry Birkhead. Birkhead is waging a separate suit for custody of Smith's daughter, Dannielynn Hope Marshall.

Court began at 9:38 a.m., and the sniping between the lawyers started immediately.

Stern's attorney, Krista Barth, accused Debra Opri, the attorney for Birkhead, of slandering her client.

"Mrs. Opri just did make a statement to my client that he actually killed Ms. Smith, and that was stated to him," Barth said.

Circuit Court Judge Larry Seidlin intervened.

"There is not going to be any of this," he shouted.

Stern: Smith Was 'My Whole World'

Stern, the first to take the stand, professed his love for Smith.

"She was my best friend, my lover, the mother of my daughter -- everything to me. Literally, my whole world," Stern said.

Smith, who had suffered immensely before her death because of a paternity fight over her daughter and the recent death of her son, often compared herself to another tragic, blonde who died before her time: Marilyn Monroe.

"Anna in a lot of ways thought she was going to die young," Stern testified. "She said that if Daniel had to be buried, she wanted to be buried with him."

Stern's case for where to bury Smith's body did not rely only on emotional testimony or fond memories of the Playboy pinup. His lawyers also played a tape from an "Entertainment Tonight" interview in which Smith expressed hatred for her mother.

"I may never speak to her again -- ever. She won't touch my child," Smith said on the tape.

Smith's mother took the stand after Stern.

Seidlin questioned Arthur on the nature of her relationship with Smith.

"When did your relationship with her go sour?" Seidlin asked.

"Probably in 1995, '96," Arthur testified.

The judge asked Arthur what she thought was the reason for the estrangement, and she repeated a one-word refrain that she has consistently cited when discussing Smith's problems.

"Drugs," Arthur said. She is expected to introduce family pictures as evidence that she was once close to her daughter.

The day ended as it began with a mad rush of cameras following the actors in this legal drama out the door.

Birkhead stopped to answer reporters' questions on his stakes in the case.

"How confident are you right now that you will get custody of Dannielynn?" Birkhead was asked.

"A hundred and 10 percent," Birkhead said.

There are many issues left to resolve: first, the custody of the body, then the custody of the baby.

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