Bahamas Rethinks Probe of Smith Death
Sep. 20, 2006
NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) _ Authorities said Wednesday they have overhauled their system for medical inquests and reassigned the coroner handling the death of Anna Nicole Smith's son amid complaints the former reality TV star had gotten special treatment.
Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez said that judicial officials decided to change the system so that more judges can preside over inquests in part because of complaints that head coroner Linda Virgill scheduled an Oct. 23 inquest just three days after the death of Daniel Smith.
Gomez, in an interview with The Associated Press, said the government began receiving complaints shortly after Virgill announced the date of the inquest to determine whether criminal charges should be filed in the Smith case.
``They've been complaining that, 'How is it that this case just came up and a date has been set and our case has been pending for years and we don't have a date yet,''' he told the AP.
Gomez also said the Oct. 23 inquest may be canceled if tests show that Smith, 20, died of natural causes while he was visiting his mother after she gave birth to a daughter at a hospital in Nassau.
Anna Nicole Smith has been in seclusion in the Bahamas since the death of her son. She was expected to be among the witnesses at the inquest.
Under the new system, replacing one that had been in place since 1993, Virgill will now be part of a pool of magistrates who handle death inquests. But she will no longer be involved with the Smith case because of ``some remarks she made in the press,'' Gomez said, declining to elaborate.
Virgill did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
The chief magistrate said pending toxicology tests may show that the death of Daniel Smith was not suspicious after all _ meaning no formal hearing would be needed.
``If the results show that the cause of death was natural, then there will be no inquest,'' he said.
Bahamian authorities and a private pathologist hired by the family have said there was no evidence of homicide or that he committed suicide by a drug overdose, but they have not released the cause.
The private pathologist, Cyril Wecht, has said Smith was taking a low dose of antidepressants at the time of his death, but that it would take several weeks to complete toxicological tests to determine why he died.
Daniel Smith, who appeared several times on the E! reality series ``The Anna Nicole Show,'' was the son of Anna Nicole and Bill Smith, who married in 1985 and divorced two years later.
The name of the father of her newborn daughter has not been publicly released.
Smith, a former Playboy playmate, married Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994, when she was 26 and he was 89. He died the following year and she has since been involved in legal disputes over the estate.