FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - Anna Nicole Smith's body must be held for DNA testing in the paternity dispute involving the former Playboy Playmate's partner, her 5-month old daughter and another man, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda granted the request in a brief meeting in his chambers with attorneys for photographer Larry Birkhead, who claims to be the baby's father.
He petitioned the Florida court Tuesday, asking that a California court order for DNA testing filed Friday - the day after Smith died - be enforced in Florida.
Nancy Hass, an attorney for Birkhead, said the Birkhead camp feared that accurate DNA testing would not be possible if the body was released and moved out of state.
Smith's partner, Howard K. Stern, also claims to be the father of 5-month-old Dannielynn, who could inherit millions from her mother's estate. Stern and Smith's mother, Vergie Arthur, had been opposing last week's decision by a Los Angeles judge that Florida authorities keep Smith's body for 10 days.
The Florida request was made so that work done to secure the Los Angeles court order "not be in vain," said another Birkhead attorney, Debra Opri.
As the dispute unfolded in court, Broward County's medical examiner warned that Smith's corpse is decomposing and should be released as soon as possible.
Broward County medical examiner Joshua Perper issued an affidavit Tuesday urging the prompt release of Smith's body, warning that "any further delay would result in destructive changes to the body." Smith, 39, died Feb. 8 after collapsing at a hotel. She was the widow of billionaire J. Howard Marshall II, whom she married when he was 89 and she was 26. She had been fighting his family for years over his fortune.
Perper said attorneys representing Stern and her mother notified him that they plan to request an emergency order for a prompt release of the body.
Stern and Smith's mother fear that if the body is not embalmed, even though it is refrigerated, it will not be suitable for viewing or funeral purposes, Perper said. Susan Brown, who with Hass represented Birkhead at Wednesday's hearing, said she did not object to Smith being embalmed.
Perper said the model's body will remain refrigerated until he receives a judge's order.
A telephone messages left with Ron Rale, an attorney for Stern, was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Rale, the attorney who had represented Smith in the Los Angeles court battle over paternity, said late Tuesday that he planned to go to the Los Angeles court Wednesday morning to ask that the hold on the body be reduced on grounds that the coroner had already extracted DNA.
"Her DNA is never going to show paternity for the baby," Rale said.
Along with the paternity case, Rale is the executor of Smith's estate. He and Stern, also a co-executor, are authorized to make funeral arrangements. Rale, however, told The Associated Press Television News that Smith's mother was fighting to bring her body home to Texas for burial.
Smith's mother could not immediately be located for comment. Rale said Smith and her mother had been estranged for 15 years.
"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," Rale said.