Plenty of mystery surrounds the sudden death of Anna Nicole Smith, and it looks like we'll have to wait a little longer for definitive answers.
The coroner in Florida's Broward County Medical Office took the first step toward determining the cause of Smith's death Friday morning, performing an autopsy to figure out what caused the former model and reality star to collapse in her hotel room leading her to be pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital. (Review Anna Nicole Smith's life in pictures in our photo gallery.)
Chief medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper said his initial probe was unable to pinpoint either a cause or manner of death.
Perper began his examination of Smith's body at 9 a.m. local time in Fort Lauderdale. He announced during a press conference that the autopsy revelated only "subtle findings" in her heart and gastrointestinal system and that the investigation into her "sudden, unexpected and unexplained" death would take between three and five more weeks to be concluded.
The coroner said he found traces of blood in the 39-year-old's stomach, and a further microscopic examination would be required. He also said that there was "minor trauma" on Smith's back, but he explained that the bruising was the result of Smith tumbling in her hotel bathroom several days before her death.
Officials also ruled out several theories floated to explain Smith's demise.
Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger said that there was no evidence of crime and, despite numerous reports to the contrary, no illegal drugs were found in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Tiger said that prescription medications were found, but he declined to reveal what the meds were for or whose name was listed on the bottles.
CNN reported earlier Friday that Smith was taking medicine to treat flu-like symptoms and that the prescriptions were under the name of her companion, Howard K. Stern.
Perper also said there was no indication that Smith had ingested large quantities of pills before her death. He added that toxicology tests are pending.
Nonetheless, Tiger said his department would keep its investigation open until there are more conclusive autopsy findings, adding that they have already begun questioning several parties involved in the incident and that "everyone has cooperated fully."
Smith had a checkered medical history. Aside from battling the flu in recent days, she was hospitalized in November for pneumonia. Smith was traveling with a private nurse, who was the one who discovered Smith unconscious in her room.
According to reports, the nurse was married to Smith's bodyguard, a trained paramedic who administered CPR to Smith until an ambulance arrived. The names of the nurse and bodyguard have not been made public. Both have been questioned by police, as has Stern, who continues to lay low. Perper said he also will question the nurse in attempt to learn more about Smith's medical history.
Meanwhile, several of those who knew Smith are offering their own hypotheses regarding her death.
Cyril Wecht, the private pathologist hired by Smith to perform an autopsy on her 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith, last fall, had previously stated that the boy had a history of heart problems. He now suggests that it's possible Anna Nicole Smith suffered from a similar condition.
Smith's mother, Vergie Arthur, appeared on Good Morning America Friday, saying she believed drugs would prove to play a role in her daughter's demise.
"I think she had too many drugs, just like Danny," Arthur said, referring to Smith's late son. Wecht determined that a fatal dose of antidepressants and pain killer's contributed to the young man's death.
Arthur, who admits that she and Smith had been estranged for years, said that she knew her daughter had been "hanging out with the wrong crowd."
"I tried to warn her about drugs and the people she hung around with. She didn't listen," she said. "She was too drugged up."
Arthur also seemed to place some of the blame for her daughter's death on her inner circle, saying "the people she was around wouldn't let, you know, let us get close to her or talk to her."
But Ron Rale, the attorney representing Smith in her paternity fight with ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead, has shot down such speculation. At a press conference Friday, he said he spoke with Smith several times in recent days and that each of those times she was "totally coherent, totally fine." He also said he had no knowledge of her ever having a drug problem.
Entertainment Tonight reporter Mark Steines, who interviewed Smith several times in the wake of the death of her son and birth of her daughter, told the Today show that, shortly after Daniel Smith died in September, Anna Nicole Smith was found unconscious at her Bahamian estate.
Steines said that Stern found Smith lying face down in the backyard pool of her home and that her bodyguard administered CPR to successfully revive her. Steines also characterized the incident to CNN not as an accident but as a suicide attempt.
He further noted that an October interview, Smith appeared very "out of it," and she seemed to fall "into a deeper and deeper depression."
Smith's body will remain at the Broward coroner's office for the near future. Perper said he will abide by a Los Angeles judge's ruling to keep the body preserved pending a Feb. 20 hearing in the ongoing paternity battle over Smith's five-month-old daughter, Dannielynn Hope. Both Stern and Birkhead claim to have fathered the infant. (The girl remains with Smith's friends in the Bahamas.)
Smith, Stern and their entourage checked into the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel on Monday. They were apparently in Florida to buy a boat.
The party had planned to check out Friday.