Published September 16, 2006
NASSAU, Bahamas – Anna Nicole Smith has hired a pathologist who consulted in the death investigations of Elvis Presley and JonBenet Ramsey to perform a repeat autopsy on her son, the examiner confirmed Saturday.
Daniel Wayne Smith, 20, died Sept. 10 in a hospital room where the reality TV star and former Playboy model was recuperating from giving birth three days earlier. Investigators have said they did not find evidence of drugs in the room or obvious signs of a crime.
The Bahamas coroner's office, which labeled the death "suspicious" because the cause was unclear, performed an autopsy Tuesday and ordered further analysis, including a toxicology test to be completed next week.
Cyril Wecht, a U.S. forensic pathologist famous for his expertise on celebrity death investigations, told The Associated Press by cell phone that he had been hired to examine the remains of Daniel Smith.
Wecht, 75, said he was at an airport and hoped to reach the Bahamas on Saturday night, but it was possible he would not arrive until Sunday morning. He said he was rushing to catch a flight and declined to comment further.
Wecht is facing trial on charges he used his staff when he was the Allegheny County coroner to do work for his multimillion-dollar private pathology practice. He resigned from office in January.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said in its Saturday editions that a judge approved the Bahamas trip on Friday. The report said he would return to his home in Pittsburgh in time for a pretrial conference Monday.
Head coroner Linda Virgill, who granted the family's request to bring in an independent examiner, said Friday that it was not an unusual step. She confirmed that a pathologist would arrive from the U.S. on Saturday and the exam would be performed Sunday at a public morgue.
A guard on Saturday prevented reporters from approaching the gate outside Smith's home in the Bahamas, a whitewashed mansion perched at the ocean's edge. A local attorney for the 38-year-old TV star has declined to comment on why she was seeking a second autopsy.
Reginald Ferguson, assistant commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, said Friday that although there were no obvious signs of criminal wrongdoing in the death, it was too early to draw conclusions.
An inquest that could lead to the filing of criminal charges is scheduled to begin Oct. 23. Witnesses including Smith, hospital staff and others who saw her son were expected to be summoned.
Smith, who came to this island chain during her pregnancy to avoid media scrutiny, is free to leave the Bahamas, authorities have said.
Daniel Smith was the son of Anna Nicole and Bill Smith, who married in 1985 and divorced two years later. The son had small roles in her movies "Skyscraper" and "To the Limit." He also appeared several times on the E! reality series "The Anna Nicole Show."
The identity of the father of Smith's newborn daughter has not been released.
Anna Nicole Smith married Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994, when she was 26 and he was 89. He died the following year. She then feuded with Marshall's son, Pierce Marshall, over her entitlement to the tycoon's estate before Pierce Marshall died in June at age 67.
An initial judgment awarding her $474 million was reversed by an appeal's court. In May, the Supreme Court ruled that Smith could continue to pursue her claim in federal courts in California.