More than two months after Anna Nicole Smith's death and 10 months since the birth of her daughter Dannielynn, another chapter in the former model's saga is likely to be written when the baby's father is revealed. DNA test results ordered by a Bahamian judge are scheduled to be released this afternoon.
Several men claim paternity in what has become a heated custody battle. The key players -- Smith's ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead and her lawyer and companion Howard K. Stern -- are expected to be in court today. At least two other men also claiming to be the baby's father are not on the island, including Prince Fredrick von Anholt, Zsa Zsa Gabor 's husband.
What's made the paternity question so compelling is another, ongoing legal battle that could see Dannielynn Smith inherit hundreds of millions of dollars from the estate of Smith's second husband, the late Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall.
Smith was married to Marshall -- roughly 60 years her senior -- for slightly more than a year in the mid-1990s. She battled his son Pierce Marshall for years, the case going all the way to the Supreme Court in in 2005 before being sent back to lower courts, where it now stands.
Also pending is a legal case involving Smith's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, who is trying to wring custody of the baby away from Stern, who she says is an unfit father, if he is even the biological father at all.
Will Paternity Settle the Custody Battle?
Today's expected ruling may bring closure to the custody firestorm that began in earnest after the former Playboy Playmate and reality TV star died on Feb. 8 after being found in a Florida hotel room.
A medical examiner ruled Smith died of an accidental overdose of a toxic drug cocktail of nine prescription medications: a powerful and rarely used sleeping medication, chloral hydrate, along with least eight other prescription drugs. She also had a bacterial infection from injecting anti-aging drugs into her buttocks.
An extensive six-week investigation found no signs of foul play, according to Florida authorities, but the medical examiner found that most of the drugs Smith was taking were prescribed in Stern's name.
The medical board of California said last Thursday that it is investigating the Los Angeles doctor, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, who, according to documents, authorized all 11 prescription medications found in Smith's hotel room the day the starlet died.
After a preliminary hearing in the Bahamas last month, Birkead came out of the courtroom jumping up and down and announced that the judge had ordered a paternity test. Because of a strict gag order -- Bahamian courts are very secretive -- news stemming from today's announcement will likely be revealed in a similar fashion. Meanwhile what if Larry Birkhead is proven to be the poppa? Celebrity Web site TMZ.com reports that Howard K. Stern will not stand in ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead's way if tests show Birkhead is the father of Smith's baby.
"If Larry Birkhead is confirmed to be Dannielynn's biological father, Howard will not challenge custody. His love for her will not change, irrespective of the results. Howard will act in Dannielynn's best interest, because he loves her and would want a smooth transition to protect her, as she is deeply bonded to those who have been with her since birth," sources told TMZ.
Regardless of what happens, Stern has vowed to make sure Arthur does not get custody of the baby. The sources also told TMZ that Stern would "do whatever is necessary to assist Larry Birkhead to defeat Virgie Arthur."
Paternity, Custody Won't End Legal Questions
Regardless of today's outcome, the legal questions surrounding Smith's death and her family are likely to continue. An inquest into the death of her 20-year-old son Daniel was put on hold last month pending a legal challenge filed by Stern.
Daniel Smith died in a Bahamian hospital room from an apparently accidental overdose of methadone and two prescription drugs -- Zoloft and Lexapro -- that, when combined with methadone, can be deadly.
The chief magistrate overseeing that inquest has said that Anna Nicole Smith's mysterious death, just five months after her 20-year-old son's equally suspicious death, increased the police's interest in Howard K. Stern, who was present or nearby when both mother and son fell ill and died.
Anna Nicole's death "caused us to lose the weight of her evidence, but at the same time, it has also increased the interest in [Daniel's] inquest because of the way in which she died,'' Bahamian Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez told United Press International. He said the court will "look with interest at the cause of [Smith's] death as well.''
Gomez said that Stern's testimony is critical because "he would have been the only other person present at the time.''
Dozens of witnesses are expected to testify at the inquest whenever it resumes.
Additional reporting by Chris Francescani, and some information taken from wire reports.