A private plane carrying Anna Nicole Smith’s body left Friday for the Bahamas, where the pinup model will be laid to rest after weeks of legal wrangling over the burial site.
The flight left with her casket after authorities escorted a black hearse to Miami International Airport, as news helicopters tracked the procession from the medical examiner’s office in Fort Lauderdale. The plane is headed to the Bahamian capital of Nassau for a burial later in the morning.
But the funeral might not bring an end to the saga: her estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, will likely try to get the body out of the Bahamas, said her lawyer, Tom Pirtle. He would not elaborate about possible legal action.
“We are not exactly sure what shape it is going to be,” Pirtle said Thursday in a telephone interview, just hours after saying Arthur had decided to drop her legal challenges in Florida courts.
The funeral is to take place later Friday at the Mount Horeb Baptist Church in Nassau, and she is to be buried at the Lakeview Memorial Gardens, said Richard Milstein, the court-appointed advocate for Smith’s 5-month-old daughter Dannielynn. A judge gave him control of the starlet’s remains.
Both services are closed to the public, Milstein said in a statement issued Thursday by a public relations firm. He didn’t return phone messages left at his office and on his cell phone seeking additional comment.
Smith’s Feb. 8 death in a hotel room at age 39 set off legal disputes in California, Florida and the Bahamas. Her boyfriend, mother and an ex-boyfriend have argued over who should get the body and who should take custody of Dannielynn, who could inherit millions of dollars.
Dr. Joshua Perper, the Broward medical examiner, said he will announce Smith’s cause of death next week.
“This was a complex case,” Perper said. “It was an unusual case from a medical point of view.”
Smith will be buried in a tiara and custom-made, beaded gown next to her 20-year-old son Daniel following an “over the top” memorial service, said a friend helping to organize the memorial.
The service, with about 300 guests, will feature large amounts of pink flowers, her favorite color, and music by a well-known singer whose name organizers were not ready to disclose, said the friend, Patrik Simpson of Beverly Hills, Calif.
“It will be a very beautiful, Anna Nicole send-off,” Simpson said Wednesday night in the Bahamian capital of Nassau. “Of course it will be over the top because it’s Anna Nicole.”
The burial at Lakeview Memorial Gardens will be much more intimate, with about 30 people, he said. Arthur, boyfriend Howard K. Stern and ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead will temporarily put aside their differences to attend the services.
Ron Rale, an attorney for Stern, would not disclose any funeral information.
“We want her to have a beautiful funeral, something she would have wanted,” Rale said by telephone from the Bahamas.
Arthur had wanted to bury Smith in her native Texas, and fought last week’s ruling from Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin that gave control of the body to Milstein.
But Stern insisted the former Playboy Playmate wanted to be buried next to Daniel, who died of apparent drug-related causes last year. Milstein agreed.
On Wednesday, a Florida appeals court upheld Seidlin’s ruling.
Perper said after the appeals court ruling that he was not sure if Smith’s body would be suitable for a viewing. He had told Seidlin during the hearing that she was decomposing.
Perper said embalmers would have to take another look at the body. Stern, Arthur and others have already viewed the body at Perper’s office.