Anna Nicole Smith spent final days drifting in and out of consciousness, witness says
Anna Nicole Smith spent the last days of her life drifting in and out of consciousness under the pale blue comforter of a king-sized hotel bed, too weak to walk, sit up or drink from anything other than a baby bottle, according to court testimony today.
The description of the period preceding the supermodel’s 2007 death from a combination of sedatives and other drugs came on the opening day of a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to try three people for conspiring to illegally furnish Smith with prescription medications.
Smith died at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla., and a medical examiner there ruled her overdose an accident. But a multi-agency task force spent two years investigating how she obtained opiates, sedatives and other drugs -- 44 different medications -- in the period before her death.
Los Angeles prosecutors ultimately charged two California physicians who wrote her prescriptions, Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor, and her boyfriend and attorney, Howard K. Stern, earlier this year. All three have pleaded not guilty.
At today’s hearing before Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry, a detective with the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement said Smith was clearly ill when she checked into the hotel Feb. 5, 2007 accompanied by Stern and Eroshevich, a psychiatrist.
Special Agent Danny Santiago said the hotel employee who checked the group in recalled Smith, a repeat customer, leaning on Stern to walk and seeming “out of it.”
Another hotel employee assigned to act as Smith’s personal assistant recalled Eroshevich telling her that Smith had the flu. The psychiatrist said she wasn’t licensed in Florida and needed help in getting a prescription for the model, Santiago said.
The hotel dispatched a local doctor to go to the room and treat Smith, but then received another call from Stern, the detective testified.
“We don’t need him anymore,” the hotel employee quoted Stern as saying, according to the detective. When the employee protested that the physician was on his way, Stern was adamant and cited concerns about negative press coverage.
“They didn’t want any leaks about Anna’s physical condition,” Santiago said.
Tabloid reporters had hounded the 39-year-old since the birth of her daughter and death of her son in the Bahamas five months before.
Many of the dozen pill bottles found in the hotel suite where Smith died were prescribed by Eroshevich the month before at a Studio City pharmacy in the names of aliases, including a variation of the spelling of Stern’s name, Santiago said.
Eroshevich had been Smith’s next-door neighbor when the model lived in Studio City and had traveled to be with Smith in the Bahamas after the death of her son, Daniel.
Santiago testified that Stern told investigators that Eroshevich was treating Smith for flu symptoms including chills and aches.
He said that when detectives asked Stern where Smith’s baby was, he told them the girl, Dannielynn, had stayed behind in the Bahamas. When asked about a baby bottle at Smith’s bedside, Stern replied that “she was so weak that that was the only way she could drink the Pedialyte” -- a rehydrating drink for sick children.
As the witness recalled how the wife of Smith’s bodyguard had found her not breathing in the bed Feb. 8, Stern hunched forward in his chair in the courtroom and covered his face with his hands.
During a brief cross-examination, a lawyer for Stern noted that his client fully cooperated with detectives in the hours after Smith’s death. Santiago agreed that Stern told investigators he was waiving his Miranda rights because “he said he hadn’t done anything wrong.”
The hearing continues this afternoon.
-- Harriet Ryan