Published September 17, 2006
Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist from Pittsburgh famous for his expertise in celebrity death investigations, told The Associated Press that he had been hired to examine the remains of Daniel Smith, who died Sept. 10 in a hospital room where he was visiting his mother as she recovered from giving birth three days earlier.
Wecht arrived at the morgue early Sunday afternoon accompanied by Michael Scott, a Bahamian lawyer for Smith. The forensic expert said he did not know why Smith — a reality TV star and former Playboy model — had sought him out for a follow-up autopsy following the exam performed by the Bahamas coroner's office.
As he stepped in the morgue, Wecht said he would be retracing the procedural steps of the local coroner's office, which labeled the death "suspicious" because the cause was unclear.
"It's a simple examination," Wecht said. "And even though it's the second [autopsy], it's basically the same."
Bahamian pathologists performed an autopsy Tuesday and ordered further analysis, including a toxicology test to be completed this week.
Wecht, 75, 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 Wecht's trip to the Bahamas but he had to return to Pittsburgh in time for a pretrial conference Monday.
Wecht, who holds a law degree in addition to a medical degree, gained fame as a critic of the Warren Commission investigation of John F. Kennedy's assassination. He has worked as a consultant on cases such as Presley's death and the slaying of Laci Peterson and often is interviewed on television about famous cases.
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.
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 20-year-old 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.