Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern—along with the rest of the world—just got one step closer to finding out who her daddy is as the wrangling over her mother's remains plays out on separate coasts.
Early Wednesday, a Florida judge announced he would uphold last week's ruling from a California court to keep Anna Nicole Smith's body at the Broward County medical examiner's office until adequate DNA samples could be retrieved from the corpse.
Then, just hours later, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider reversed his earlier decision and lifted the legal hold on Smith's remains, apparently clearing the way for the body to be released and setting up yet another court showdown—over where the former model will be laid to rest.
Attorneys for Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead, the two men engaged in a paternity lawsuit for Smith's five-month-old daughter, said after the Los Angeles hearing that DNA samples were procured by the coroner during his autopsy of Smith.
"Based upon the determination of our lab this weekend that we had sufficient DNA samples, we notified both parties that we have no problem with the release of the body of Anna Nicole Smith," said Debra Opri, the lead attorney for Birkhead.
Opri had requested an emergency order be granted last Friday, the day after Smith died in a Hollywood, Florida, hotel at age 39. The urgency for the DNA sample, Opri argued, was to prevent Stern's camp from pulling a "bait and switch." Schnider denied granting the motion, but ordered the body preserved until Feb. 20 so he could sort out all the issues, including the collection of samples from Dannielynn, who remains in the Bahamas, and Stern, who is listed as the father on Dannielynn's birth certificate has thus far refused to cooperate in the paternity case.
"We are satisfied at this point that a Florida court will turn over [Smith's] DNA samples necessary to satisfy the California court's paternity test order," Opri explained Wednesday, adding the tug-o-war over Smith's remains "is not our fight."
Stern's lawyer James Neavitt agreed, saying, "California has no need for the body of Anna Nicole."
Now Stern's legal crew has shifted its focus again to Florida to see if Broward County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Korda will release the body. Another hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning.
Korda initially ordered Smith's body to remain preserved pending the paternity hearing in L.A., but he ruled that Smith's survivors could have her body embalmed. Virgie Arthur, Smith's estranged mother, had publicly stated that she feared the body would decompose without embalming and would be unsuitable for display at any memorial services.
On Tuesday, Dr. Joshua Perper, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Smith, submitted an affidavit to the court arguing for the speedy release of her body to a funeral home, saying that "any further delay would result in destructive changes to the body.
Stern, who is currently caring for Dannielynn in the Bahamas along with his sister and mother, has been fighting for a quick burial of Smith, presumably in a plot next to her late son, Daniel, in a Nassau cemetery. Arthur is seeking to have the body turned over to her for burial in Smith's hometown in Texas.
"We would just want...to proceed with a proper burial," said Stern's L.A. lawyer and chief spokesman Ron Rale. "I assume we're going to have a battle over who's going to have custody of the body of Anna Nicole, Howard [K.] Stern or Virgie Arthur.
"According to Anna's wishes, it should be released to Howard [K.] Stern, not Virgie," Rale continued. "I implore Anna Nicole's mother to do the best for her daughter, carry on with her wishes and her wish is not to go to Texas."
Wednesday's court action wasn't limited to Florida and California.
While the bicoastal hearings were going on, Arthur, who has been in the Bahamas since last Friday, petitioned a Bahamian court to name her the legal guardian of Dannielynn. She also asked the judge for an order to prohibit the five-month-old from being taken out of the country.
Arthur and Birkhead have formed an alliance against Stern, with Arthur making the media rounds this week and declaring that she believes it is Birkhead, not Stern—and certainly not Prince Frederic von Anhalt, chef/bodyguard Alex Denk or, posthumously, J. Howard Marshall II—who is her granddaughter's father.
"I don't have a problem with [Dannielynn] being with Larry Birkhead," she told Good Morning America Monday. "I do have a problem with her being with Howard."
As for Stern, while he may have lost the support of Smith's family, he certainly hasn't lost the support of his own. Stern's sister, Bonnie Stern, has also been hitting the talk show circuit this week, telling Larry King Live that she's disheartened at the media's portrayal of her brother as a pill-pushing money-grubber.
Stern also figures prominently in another Smith-related kerfuffle.
Bahamian Immigration Minister Shane Gibson has finally spoken out about photos of him embracing a fully clothed Smith on her bed that surfaced in the Nassau Tribune earlier this week.
The photos aroused suspicion as to whether Gibson did indeed give special consideration or rush status to Smith's residency application, as he has been accused of. On Tuesday, he denied the accusations of an inappropriate relationship to Bahamian government station ZNS TV.
"They were innocent," he said of the photos. "They were all taken by, as I said, by Howard [K.] Stern and they were all taken in a set environment...I knew the pictures were being taken and as you can see from the photographs, you saw a good smile on my face."
Finally, while Smith may have to wait indefinitely for a proper burial, she is set to receive something of a sendoff.
At the stroke of midnight tonight, the "Girls of Rick's Cabaret," the topless dancers at all 13 branches nationwide of the gentleman's club, will blow a final choreographed kiss to their former coworker.
Smith first met her oil tycoon husband Marshall at the Rick's Cabaret in Houston in the early '90s, when she was working as a dancer.
As for why the clubs opted to make the salute, venue founder Robert Watters said it was to honor both Smith and Marshall.
"Anna Nicole and Howard Marshall were a fixture," he said. "Howard would come in during the day and spend money. He'd have a drink and watch Anna Nicole. She would often dance for him with a friend and he seemed to get as much pleasure out of watching her interact with another dancer as anything else."
E! Online Photo Gallery: Anna Nicole's Life in Pictures