NASSAU, Bahamas – Anna Nicole Smith's longtime lawyer and companion told a court Tuesday he was surprised to learn an overdose killed the Playboy playmate's son, saying he never suspected the young man was abusing drugs.
Howard K. Stern, the final witness to testify at the inquest to determine what killed Daniel Smith in September 2006, said he thought a toxicology report showing the 20-year-old died from a combination of drugs, including the painkiller methadone, was false because it didn't fit with his impression of the son.
"I didn't believe Daniel died of a drug overdose at all. Even after the toxicology report came back, I thought that was some kind of set up or something," Stern said in the inquest, which ended Tuesday. "He wasn't that kind of kid."
Stern's account contradicted the portrayal given Monday by another former Anna Nicole boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, who described the young man as troubled and apparently struggling with drugs and alcohol.
Stern said he regrets not recognizing that Daniel's health was deteriorating shortly before he died in the Bahamas, the island nation that became the center of a bitter custody dispute for Anna Nicole's baby daughter when the 39-year-old model died Feb. 8, 2007, from an overdose of prescription drugs.
"Daniel said to me, 'I don't know why I'm so tired.' I didn't think anything of it," Stern said. "I wish I had."
Stern, who is the executor of Anna Nicole's estate, denied ever giving Daniel any drugs.
He also rejected previous testimony by Ford Shelley, the son-in-law of a developer who was embroiled in an ownership dispute over the Bahamas estate where Anna Nicole lived, who claimed the late reality TV star kept her numerous prescription drugs in a duffel bag.
"Anna did not have 300 bottles of drugs filling up a duffel bag like the world wants to think," Stern said.
Stern testified he took a photograph of Anna Nicole cradling her dead son after his collapse in her hospital room. "I did that for her and I would do it again," he said, adding that Anna Nicole requested the picture to be taken.
At the time of his death, Daniel was visiting his celebrity mother after she had given birth to daughter Dannielynn in a Nassau hospital. Anna Nicole's fatal overdose in Florida occurred about six months later.
Stern was the last witness to testify before a seven-member jury that will formally determine what killed Daniel and has the power to recommend criminal charges if it finds evidence of wrongdoing.
The judge was scheduled to turn the case over to the jury for deliberations on Thursday.
Police have said there is no evidence of homicide in Daniel's death, and an autopsy found the likely cause of death was a combination of drugs, including methadone and antidepressants.