NASSAU, Bahamas – The late son of reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith was a gifted but anguished 20-year-old who longed to be more independent of his celebrity mother, a family friend testified Tuesday at an inquest into his death.
Ford Shelley, the son-in-law of a developer who was embroiled in an ownership dispute over the estate where Anna Nicole lived in the Bahamas before her fatal Feb. 8 overdose, described Daniel Smith as a "brilliant" young man who was "living in a shell" due to his mother's fame.
"He wanted to break free," Shelley said. "He loved his mother but didn't want to be known as her son."
Daniel Smith died Sept. 10, 2006, while visiting his mother three days after she gave birth to her daughter, Dannielynn, in the Bahamian capital of Nassau.
Shelley, who testified that Anna Nicole kept her drugs in a duffel bag, said he saw prescription bottles — including the painkiller methadone in pill and liquid form — made out to at least four different aliases when he unpacked her luggage during a trip she made to South Carolina to visit developer G. Ben Thompson, a former boyfriend.
He testified that he believed Daniel Smith could not have been a drug addict because he was "afraid of his own shadow" and "couldn't even hold his liquor."
Cross-examination by a lawyer for Anna Nicole's attorney-turned-boyfriend Howard K. Stern, who was also in the hospital room the day Daniel died, tried to cast doubt on the closeness of Shelley's relationship with the Smith family.
Earlier in the day, the lab director for the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office testified that a large dose of methadone taken by Daniel Smith was the primary factor behind his death.
"But for the methadone he would not have died," said Hern, who said he did not believe the young man was a habitual user of the drug.
Under questioning by Director of Public Prosecutions Bernard Turner, Hern said he felt the 20-year-old's death was the result of an "intentional" overdose because the methadone ingested was such a large amount taken in such a short period of time.
The coroner's court session was attended by Stern and Anna Nicole's long-estranged mother, Virgie Arthur.
The inquest continues Wednesday, with testimony expected by Thompson, the South Carolina developer, and two nannies who worked in the waterfront home where Anna Nicole Smith and Stern lived in Nassau.
So far, about 30 witnesses have testified at the inquest before a seven-member jury, which will formally determine what killed Daniel Smith and has the power to recommend criminal charges if it finds evidence of wrongdoing.
Police have said there is no evidence of homicide, and an autopsy found the likely cause of death was a combination of drugs, including methadone and antidepressants.