She ate little. She held the baby. She took her pills. Howard helped her to take them. She slept with a poster-size photo of Daniel.
In February, they flew to Hollywood, Florida, to pick up a boat they’d purchased. They checked into the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Anna Nicole was suffering from a massive infection—the product of abscesses within the tissue of her buttocks from her vitamin and growth-hormone injections. Though she was badly sick, she’d wanted to make the trip. They were joined by a few friends as well as her next-door neighbor from Studio City, an endlessly sympathetic psychiatrist she called Dr. Khris, who prescribed most of her medications.
With a fever of 105 degrees, she struggled to sleep. She took Klonopin, Ativan, Valium, and Restoril, all at therapeutic doses. She was given ice baths and antibiotics. She sucked the liquid sleeping medication chloral hydrate from a baby bottle. On the morning of Thursday, February 8, 2007, almost exactly five months after Daniel died, Howard left her in the care of her bodyguard’s wife and another woman while he inspected the boat. Sometime after 1 p.m., he received a phone call that she was not breathing.
What happened in the end was in keeping with everything that preceded it.
Even the disposition of her body required the intervention of the judicial system. Following a six-day courtroom circus in Broward County—featuring a sometimes-sobbing family-court judge aiming to parlay his fifteen minutes—Howard K. Stern’s request was granted (over the wishes of Virgie, who’d wanted her buried in Texas), and Anna Nicole’s body was finally laid to rest in the Bahamas with Daniel.
No fewer than five men asserted possible paternity of her baby girl, including Prince Frederic von Anhalt, the husband of 90-year-old Zsa Zsa Gabor, who claimed a decadelong affair with her. Once again the courts were asked to intercede, and a DNA test determined what was known all along, that the girl was Larry Birkhead’s. Larry took Dannielynn, and is now raising her in Kentucky and Los Angeles, trotting her out for milestones like birthdays for all the world to see.
And then another court of a different sort became involved. In March 2009, then–attorney general of California Jerry Brown held a press conference condemning Anna Nicole’s very public abuse of prescriptions and charging her “enablers” and “conspirators”—Howard, internist Sandeep Kapoor, and Dr. Khris—with various crimes related to helping her obtain her medications. To many it seemed like an open-and-shut case. Not so to the judge, who chastised the government as overzealous and found it a matter of fact that Anna Nicole was a chronic-pain sufferer who did not meet the legal definition of a drug addict in California. Last September, the jury dismissed the most serious charges against them. But his partial acquittal notwithstanding, Howard’s life had been shattered. Jobless at 41, he moved back in with his parents, who in recent years had freely loaned him and Anna Nicole their savings.
Which leaves one last court, the highest in the land. Should the Supreme Court uphold the lower courts’ rulings, Dannielynn stands to inherit a minimum of $88 million.
The medical examiner’s office in Broward County determined that Anna Nicole Smith died not from a fatal dose of any single drug but, like her son, from their combined toxicity, along with the infection caused by her injections. As her body was being examined, detectives combed through her hotel suite, cataloging the many bottles of pills and the various pseudonyms to whom they’d been prescribed. The sheets on her bed were stained brown. There was vomit in the sink. The baby bottle filled with liquid sleeping medication sat on the bedside table. Her purse was on a chair. An officer went to it and began leafing through sundry items: makeup, papers, more pills. There was also a loose four-by-six-inch photograph, which she’d carried all this time. It was of Anna Nicole, Daniel, and J. Howard. In it they are smiling.