She may have posed for Guess? and Playboy, but make no mistake—Anna Nicole Smith's death wasn't pretty.
Revelations made in the first few hours of the preliminary hearing against the model's lawyer/friend Howard K. Stern and Drs. Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor—the trio facing a combined 23 felony charges relating to the star's drug use that eventually led to her death—were downright ugly.
We're talkin' feces in the bed, infections in uncomfortable places, blue-lipped. Seriously. Disturbing. Ugliness.
Prosecutor Renee Rose called Special Agent Danny Santiago of the State Department of Justice to the stand as the first witness. He has been investigating the case since 2007 and painted a (rather disgusting) picture of the model's drug use and last days of life.
When detectives from the Broward County Sheriff's Office found the bed where a lifeless Smith was discovered on Feb. 8, 2007, it was covered with feces, Santiago explained.
Detectives also recovered nearly a dozen different prescription and illicit drugs from the hotel room, many of them prescribed by the hundreds. The drugs included chloral hydrate and soma, powerful sedatives and muscle relaxers.
Santiago recalled Stern telling detectives hours after Smith's death that he helped her to the bathroom around 9 that morning. She then went back to sleep. The accused "principal enabler" claimed they were in Florida to buy a boat and that he left sometime after 11:20 a.m. to see it.
Stern told the officials that Anna Nicole had been complaining of flu-like symptoms since they arrived at the hotel. She had fallen down in the bathroom the night before, but didn't appear to be seriously hurt. Stern said he knew she was taking Tamiflu and antidepression medication, but hadn't seen her take anything that day.
Indeed, Santiago confirmed that detectives recounted the star's state upon her arrival at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Feb. 5.
"[The detective] said she was being supported by Mr. Stern," Santiago said. "He was holding her as they walked through the lobby. He said she wasn't her usual vivacious self. She seemed down and was possibly ill...[She] was so weak she could not sit up to drink liquids."
Instead, Stern served her children's electrolyte formula Pedialyte in a baby bottle.
Santiago also shared what he learned from a hotel employee familiar with Smith.
According to the staffer, Eroshevich and Stern had asked to send a doctor to make a house call because Smith wasn't feeling well, and because Eroshevich could not prescribe medicine in Florida. But shortly after, Stern asked that she cancel the doctor to avoid "leaks getting out about Anna's condition."
Tasma Brighthaupt, the wife of Smith's bodyguard, told Santiago she was watching Smith on the morning of the 8th, but that it was only after one of Smith's friends visiting from the Bahamas came in to look at the former model that they realized something was wrong.
Brighthaupt, a registered nurse, began CPR after discovering that Smith's lips were blue and her skin was beginning to discolor.
The coroner determined that Smith's cause of death was acute combined drug toxicity of chloral hydrate, with additional drugs contributing. Santiago said coroners also told him that Smith had an infected abscess on her buttock and that Eroshevich admitted that Smith had been taking medication via injection.
Santiago said medications including methadone had been shipped to Smith's P.O. box during her stay in the Bahamas and were sometimes picked up by Stern. During a search of Eroshevich's home in October 2007, where Stern was present, he also admitted to procuring prescriptions in his name for Smith. Investigators believe the former Playmate used more than a dozen names of associates and aliases to obtain a five-page list of more than 40 medications over time.
Stern held his head in his hands during much of the testimony, especially as Santiago recounted Brighthaupt's description of discovering Smith in bed with her lips blue and no pulse on the day of her death.
While cross-examining Santiago, Stern's attorney, Stephen Sadow, read from a statement hotel employee Lisa Arredondo gave to the investigator, which said, "[Smith] was always the boss. She was in control of everything and everyone, everyone that traveled with her."
Santiago said that he believed Arredondo's statement included Stern.
To show that Smith's episode in the hotel was not the first time she appeared under the influence in public, Sadow played a tape of the former model introducing Kanye West (and noticeably slurring) at the 2006 American Music Awards.
"Video is video," Sadow told reporters after court today. "We're not running from it. It's what she was on that day. It just depends on the context of why she was that day. We all have bad days."
"She had medical problems," he added. "If she's on medication for that, that would explain her activity."
In the courtroom, Judge Robert J. Perry made sure to note that the three defendants are not being charged with Smith's murder and that "the cause of death is not an issue."
Stern, Eroshevich and Kapoor have pleaded not guilty on all counts.
(Originally published Oct. 13, 2009, at 2:18 p.m. PT)
Keeping up is tough. Thank goodness for this.