The setting may have changed, but the intrigue over the death of Anna Nicole Smith shows no signs of abating.
Over the weekend, many of the major players in the Smith drama made their way to the Bahamas to continue to wage their respective battles: Howard K. Stern to reclaim the home he shared with Smith and to maintain custody of five-month-old Dannielynn; Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, to do everything in her power to remove Dannielynn from Stern's custody; and, of course, the requisite media circus, which has unearthed more evidence suggesting that drugs may have played a role in Smith's death last week at age 39.
Stern was the first to arrive in Nassau Friday and immediately reunited with Dannielynn, who had been staying in Horizons, the waterfront home Stern and Smith shared, under the care of his mother and sister.
Ownership of the home has been a source of contention over the past few months. Smith claimed the property was hers, and it was in fact her alleged deed to the estate that enabled her to become a resident of the Bahamas last fall. However, real-estate developer and former Smith beau G. Ben Thompson claimed Horizons was his, that he had simply let Smith live there and that he either wanted it back or wanted full payment for it.
A Feb. 26 hearing has been set to determine the property's rightful ownership, although the lack of a definitive ruling didn't stop Thompson from having the locks to the estate changed over the weekend. However, on Sunday, after receiving a court order allowing him to do so, Stern changed the locks again and moved back into the home with Dannielynn.
Upon his arrival, Stern noticed that several items from the home had gone missing and filed a report with Nassau's Royal Bahamian Police. Among the possessions he claims were snatched during his absence were computer equipment, drawings and paintings. Authorities are investigating the purported theft and have already interviewed the estate's housekeeper.
"Right now, Howard is very happy to be reunited with Dannielynn but extremely angry that somebody had the gall to break into Anna's residence," Stern's L.A.-based lawyer, Ron Rale, told the Associated Press.
Stern had more reason to be furious, as a series of both incriminating and surprising photos has begun making the rounds.
On Monday morning, the Tribune of Nassau published two front-page photos featuring Smith and Shane Gibson, the nation's chief immigration official, lying fully clothed in bed in romantic embraces. Gibson has been widely criticized for reportedly granting Smith special treatment in her application for residency and for allegedly speeding up the processing of her paperwork. (There have also been reports that Gibson's family helped care for Dannielynn while Smith and Stern went to Hollywood, Florida, last week on their ultimately ill-fated excursion to buy a yacht they had dubbed Cracker.)
Even more distressing were photos that surfaced on tmz.com, supposedly depicting the contents of Smith's private refrigerator at Horizons, reportedly taken in the days following Smith's death.
The photos, which TMZ claims have been "100 percent verified," show the contents of a mini-fridge that was said to be located inside Smith's bedroom at the Bahamian home. (E! Online has not been able to confirm the authenticity of the photos.)
Stacked next to the appliance were several bottles of TrimSpa, which Smith famously hawked, and inside the fridge were several bottles of methadone and several more vials of unidentifiable injectable medicines, per TMZ. (Although an inquest is pending, early autopsy findings indicate Smith's 20-year-old son, Daniel, died in September from a fatal combination of methadone and antidepressants.) The refrigerator also contained several cans of Slim-Fast shakes and Miracle 2000, a nutritional supplement.
No one from Smith's camp has spoken out on the photos or the presence of the various drugs. Police officials in Florida said no illegal drugs were found in her hotel room but that prescription drugs were present. Investigators haven't released any further details about the medications.
However, MSNBC's Rita Cosby reported over the weekend that Smith had been prescribed more than 10 pain medications in the wake of recent surgery to repair a botched breast augmentation.
As for Stern, he remained inside his newly reclaimed estate Sunday, despite would-be house calls from several familiar, albeit unwelcome, faces.
Arthur, Smith's long estranged mother, also touched down in Nassau Friday and immediately took to finding her granddaughter to take protective custody of the girl. Stern would not have it.
Smith's partner, who allowed both Entertainment Tonight and The Insider to film his reunion with Dannielynn Friday, greeted the baby by saying, "This is the only piece of Anna I have left."
"I wouldn't be here now, but I had to get back to Dannielynn," he said, per the New York Post. "I know Anna loved her more than anything in the world."
According to Stern's camp, granting Arthur custody of the child would be the last thing Smith would have wanted.
"Anna despised that woman," he said. "As long as I have breath in my body, that woman will not see Dannielynn."
A surprising ally has since come to Arthur's defense.
On Sunday, after hearing of Stern's reaction to Arthur's efforts, paternity challenger Larry Birkhead's ever ready lawyer, Debra Opri, spoke out on the grandmother's behalf, saying it was "utterly despicable that Howard K. Stern is blocking Virgie Arthur's access to her granddaughter."
"A grandmother has a right to check on the welfare of her granddaughter, especially after the death of her daughter and grandson under suspicious circumstances."
Opri's rush to Arthur's defense appears to be slightly more than just a goodwill gesture. According to the Post, Birkhead and Arthur have now teamed up to double their chances of removing Dannielynn from what they deem a dangerous situation.
Arthur reciprocated during an appearance Monday on Good Morning America: "I think Larry Birkhead is the father," she said. "I don't have a problem with [Dannielynn] being with Larry Birkhead. I do have a problem with her being with Howard [K.] Stern."
As for potential ulterior motives for custody stemming from the inheritance windfall Dannielynn is potentially poised to receive, Arthur said, "The money has nothing to do with that baby. If Howard wants the money, give him the money. Just give us the baby."
"Everybody is in agreement that the child must be removed from Howard K. Stern's environment, and everybody is going to do whatever they can to get that done," Opri told the newspaper.
For Arthur, that includesvisits to the Ministry of Social Services and the Nassau police. For Birkhead, it means maintaining his claim of paternity, even in the wake of yet more contenders for the title.
A judge in Los Angeles is attempting to sort out the battle between Stern, who's listed on Dannielynn's birth certificate as the father, and Birkhead, who says it was a 2005 New Year's Eve tryst with Smith that resulted in the girl's Sept. 7 birth. While the judge declined to grant an emergency order to obtain a sample of Smith's DNA, he did order the body preserved pending a Feb. 20 hearing.
Simple math indicates that Dannielynn would therefore have to have been born prematurely for Birkhead's claims to hold, and both he and Opri claim that is the case.
"We know full well there's every indication the child is a preemie," Opri told the New York Daily News. "A DNA test will tell all."
Smith's Bahamian attorney, Wayne Munroe, meanwhile, stated that medical records will show the baby was carried to full term.
But the paternity picture has grown even more muddied in recent days.
On Friday, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, the 59-year-old husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor, entered the fray, claiming it was possible he was the father of the baby, that he had had a decade-long affair with Smith.
Acquaintances have suggested that von Anhalt might simply be seeking publicity, but at a surreal press conference, he said, "I know it for a fact" that neither Birkhead nor Stern is the father, but he declined to elaborate. He added that he last spoke to Smith six weeks ago, adding that she seemed "very depressed."
On Monday, he took his claims even further, telling the Associated Press he would file a paternity challenge later this week to gain custody of Dannielynn, despite the fact that it would result in almost certain doom for his marriage to Gabor.
"If the court rules in my favor, I will go to the Bahamas and pick up the child," he told the wire service.
As for his 90-year-old wife, "She says, of course, 'If you bring a baby home then it's over.' If my wife wants to divorce me then it's up to her."
Smith's chef-turned-bodyguard Alex Denk, whom she met while filming The Anna Nicole Show, also recently threw his name into the paternity hat, telling Extra that he had a secret two-year affair with Smith that was apparently ongoing when she found out she was pregnant.
"There's always a possibility," he said of his chances at being the father. "She always told me she wanted to have kids with me."
On Sunday, the Daily News printed excerpts from a manuscript titled Train Wreck, reportedly being shopped around by Smith's estranged half-sister, Donna Hogan.
Among various allegations of drug dependency and lesbian affairs, the manuscript introduces a fifth potential paternal candidate, and the most bizarre yet—Smith's ex-husband J. Howard Marshall II.
Hogan claims that Smith impregnated herself with the frozen sperm of the late oil tycoon, who married Smith when he was 89 (she was 26) and died a year later. Smith had been battling for more than a decade for a nearly $474 million inheritance, which, if the courts uphold, would now be passed on to Dannielynn.
There is at least one man who was present in Smith's life at the time of her passing who does not lay claim to notions of paternity. Her bodyguard, who asked only to be identified as "Moe," told E! News exclusively that he was very much mourning the loss of his boss and friend.
"I'm going through deep, deep problems now," he said. "Just know that she was very dear to me."
In the meantime, Stern is reportedly due to be questioned by the Royal Bahamian Police Force later Monday on both the alleged break-in to the Nassau home and as part of the ongoing investigation into the death of Daniel Smith.