Pierce’s wife resolved to continue his crusade in his stead.
That summer, Anna Nicole and Howard settled in a friend’s gated white house on New Providence Island in the Bahamas, a block and a half from the sea. She said she wanted to get away from the press attention; more important, she believed that by giving birth there and declaring Howard K. Stern the baby’s father, she could thwart Larry Birkhead’s paternity claims.
Daniel stayed in California. He was concerned for his mother, however, and contacted a private investigator, explaining that he believed Howard and others were isolating her and encouraging her drug use. But when the detective requested a retainer, Daniel dropped the matter. Not long after, in mid-July, he was with Ray when he abruptly began crying. “I hate this!” he shouted, becoming increasingly upset. “I hate my life!” He began punching Ray. He screamed that there were things crawling on his skin.
He was admitted for psychological evaluations that stretched over four days (by coincidence, he was placed in the same hospital room in which his mother had recuperated from her most serious overdose a decade earlier). He was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
On September 7, 2006, Ray’s cell phone rang. Anna Nicole had had her baby girl.
By the time Daniel arrived in Nassau, it was 10:25 p.m. Howard picked him up and was taken aback by how much weight he’d lost. Security cameras captured Daniel and Howard smiling as they walked back inside Doctors Hospital. When Daniel entered the room, there was his mother and his baby sister, Dannielynn Hope. Howard snapped photos of the three of them in bed together, smiling (photos that would reportedly command $650,000).
That night in the hospital, Howard made himself a bed on the floor. Daniel, who was lying on the other bed in the room, told him he wasn’t able to sleep and offered his spot to Howard; he moved to a chair beside his mother’s bed to watch TV. She woke up several times throughout the night, and Daniel helped walk her to the bathroom. At 6:20 a.m., a nurse noted Daniel helping reposition his mother in the bed.
It was just after 9:30 a.m. Howard was asleep in the other bed. The baby was asleep in her Plexiglas bassinet. Anna and Daniel were lying together in her bed. She opened her eyes and reached to touch him.
She screamed for Howard.
A team of doctors and staff responded. She was hysterical. They tried to move her from the bed. She stayed there with Daniel as they began chest compressions. An anesthesiologist inserted a tube down his throat and noted the absence of a pulse and the coolness of Daniel’s skin. There were shouts for various drugs; IVs were inserted; he was connected to monitors. For a half-hour it went on like this.
Until they told her they were sorry, there was nothing more they could do.
She shrieked. “Jesus, take me instead! Please don’t make me trade one baby for the other!”
At one point she told Howard to take a picture of her baby boy.
It is a horrible photograph. They are in bed, and she is clutching his body against hers, his head listing, his lips slightly parted around the thin plastic tube, his empty sea-glass green eyes visible behind slits.
Two and a half weeks later, in a catamaran off Paradise Island, Anna Nicole Smith and Howard K. Stern united themselves in a commitment ceremony (for photos of this and videos of her C-section, she received at least $1.2 million). They told Larry King they’d been secretly in love for years. They said they were trying to do what makes them happy. They were unwavering in their insistence that Howard K. Stern was the father of the child.
Daniel’s death was ruled an accident, the result of the combined toxicity of three specific medications: Lexapro, the antidepressant Zoloft, and methadone. He’d been prescribed only the Lexapro; his mother had had prescriptions for methadone; there was no obvious explanation for the Zoloft.
At Daniel’s funeral, Anna Nicole repeatedly demanded they reopen his casket and tried to pull her son’s body out. She lashed out at Howard and the other attendees.
A needle was produced, and she was injected with a sedative.
It was hot in the Bahamian sun. In the house, Howard was on the phone, negotiating. Anna Nicole was in the bedroom, the TV on. Two Haitian nannies cared for the baby and spoke behind their backs relentlessly, in Creole. Days passed as she lay there. She woke from time to time in fits and screams, sitting up in bed: “Where is Daniel?”