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2007/02/13 (Tue) 16:03
Magistrate: New questions for Anna Nicole's man

From Rusty Dornin
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NASSAU, Bahamas (CNN) -- In light of Anna Nicole Smith's death, Bahamian authorities are now more interested in questioning her attorney and partner in connection with the death of Smith's son Daniel, the country's chief magistrate said Monday.

Daniel Smith, 20, died in his mother's hospital room September 10, 2006, three days after she gave birth to a daughter, Dannielyn.

Roger Gomez, the Bahamas' chief magistrate, told CNN that island authorities now have a heightened interest in questioning Howard K. Stern, Smith's longtime attorney and companion.

Gomez said Smith and Stern were in the hospital room when Daniel Smith died.

"Anna Nicole, the mother of Daniel, is dead, and Howard is the only one who was alive who was in the room," Gomez said. "And it really arouses our suspicions to exactly what happened in the room."

Ron Rale, a lawyer for Smith's estate, said he gave "no credence" to any suspicions of wrongdoing.

"It's going to unfold, and everyone will see that there's no basis for any kind of criminal allegations," said Rale.

The inquest into Daniel Smith's death has been set for March 26. Gomez said he expected about 30 witnesses to appear.

"He died suddenly. He came here for what would normally have been a festive occasion, to see his newborn sister," Gomez said. "So it's unusual for someone to die suddenly. About that, we want to know exactly why."

Pathologist Cyril Wecht, who obtained test results from a Pennsylvania laboratory, told CNN that Daniel Smith died from a combination of methadone along with antidepressants Lexapro and Zoloft.

The celebrity Web site TMZ.com posted pictures of what it said was a bottle of methadone in the refrigerator of Smith's home in the Bahamas, which friends said was burglarized the day after her death.

"If that is verified by evidence at the inquest, it will certainly increase our interest, because methadone is allegedly one of the drugs he may have died from," Gomez said.

Stern also claims paternity of the 5-month-old Dannielyn, but that claim has been challenged in court by her former boyfriend, Larry Birkhead.

Disputes over the baby girl's parentage and the ownership of the home where she lived were overshadowed on Monday by photographs in the Bahamas edition of The Miami Herald which showed her in the arms of Shane Gibson, the government immigration minister whose office granted her residency.

The opposition Bahamian Democratic Movement called for Gibson's resignation. But in a televised statement, he said Smith was a friend of his wife and family, and that the "innocent photographs" were taken by Stern.

He refused the calls to resign, saying he did not act improperly.

"Sometimes it's normal to accelerate residency cases, but the relationship did not influence it," he said.

Anna Nicole Smith, 39, died Thursday at a hotel room in Hollywood, Florida, near Miami. The cause of death has not yet been determined, Broward County Medical Examiner Joshua Perper said Monday.

Perper said the autopsy found no needle marks, no pill residues in her stomach or any indication she had been drinking alcohol. Nor was there any evidence of recent plastic surgery, he said.

"Rumors are flying like balloons, but many balloons are pierced by reality," Perper said.

Investigators are now waiting on test results from blood and spinal fluid to learn more about what killed Anna Nicole Smith, he said.

Perper said he spoke with Stern and a friend of Smith's by telephone Monday morning. They provided information about her medical history, and Stern said he would meet with the medical examiner in person, Perper said.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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