Anna Nicole's death: Five years later

NEED TO KNOW
  • Anna Nicole Smith died five years ago today
  • We catch up with the key players from this sensational story
  • Anna Nicole's daughter is now five, lives with dad Larry Birkhead
Anna Nicole's death: Five years later
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DannielynnLarry
Judge

The breathless tabloid coverage has waned, the once-endless legal battles are over, and a previously unknown 30-something photographer has settled in very comfortably to his new role as a single dad to a five-year-old girl.

Today marks five years to the day since Anna Nicole Smith fatally overdosed while staying in room 607 at the Hard Rock Hotel in South Florida. Her death came only five months after her 20-year-old son Daniel overdosed while the family was on vacation in the Bahamas. The dual tragedies -- and the controversies each created -- fueled intense interest in Anna Nicole Smith, her estate and the loved ones left behind.

You probably remember the whole thing went down not long after "The Anna Nicole Show" had its run on E!, so millions of people already knew who Daniel Smith and Howard K. Stern were. But the former pin-up's death introduced us to people like Larry Birkhead and Judge Larry Seidlin, who would soon become household names, as well.

Five years after Anna Nicole's death, we thought we'd check back in with the cast of characters to see what they've been up to since they all became the focus of a national obsession.

Dannielynn Birkhead

Where else to start but with the little girl who was at the center of the fierce paternity battle between Smith's boyfriend/attorney Howard K. Stern and photographer Larry Birkhead. A newborn at the time of her mother's death, Dannielynn is now five years old and being raised by Birkhead, who was awarded custody after DNA testing proved he was the girl's father.

She was too young to have any memories of her mom, but Birkhead told Us Weekly that Anna Nicole retains a large presence in her life. Explaining how he described to Dannielynn what happened to her mom, he told the magazine "At first I said, 'Your mommy's up in the clouds.' Then we were on a plane from Kentucky and she asked, 'Which cloud is my mom on, maybe she can come play?'"

He told ET Online last year that "Dannielynn is bright, she's intelligent, she's met and exceeded all of her developmental milestones by all accounts from her teachers," and noted that she already has a very full social calendar -- though he's said that he pays close attention to who she becomes friends with to make sure they want to hang out for the right reasons.

The five year old, who already looks a lot like her mom, lives in Los Angeles with Birkhead and his 19-year-old nephew. "I see her mom in everything she does," he told Us Weekly.

However, one thing neither Birkhead or Dannielynn will see is the fortune which was amassed by Anna Nicole's ex-husband, J. Howard Marshall. Smith fought a prolonged legal battle with Marshall's son to claim roughly $475 million of her husband-for-14-months' money. But last year, the inheritance battle reached the Supreme Court, which ruled Anna Nicole (and by extension, Dannielynn) could not receive the oil tycoon's cash. A California bankruptcy court had awarded it to Smith's estate, but the Supreme Court said the lower court didn't have the authority to do so.

Before the ruling came down, Birkhead told ET Online the inheritance matter was almost a non-issue, because the family was financially secure and "Dannielynn has everything she needs now, because she has me, she has her family … she's getting a great education, she's starting out great."

Larry Birkhead

The single dad pretty much summed up his new life when he told E! Online "I spend tons of time with [Dannielynn]. That is one of my biggest accomplishments. She knows the happiness she gets at home and from the people around her."

Birkhead also seems to be serious about keeping his daughter's life as "normal" as possible. "We were at the Kentucky Derby and she started smiling and posing like her mom would," he told Us Weekly. "People ask me to put her in modeling, but I don't want to push." The pair's time is largely consumed by pretty typical father-daughter stuff such as school and birthday parties. Dannielynn actually graduated preschool on the same day the Supreme Court delivered its ruling on her (non) inheritance.

They have also traveled a good bit, including to New York, London and the Bahamas, where Birkhead says they visited the grave of Dannielynn's brother (and namesake) Daniel.

He says many members of his family have moved out from Kentucky and play a large role in his daughter's life. One person absent from it, though, is Anna Nicole's mother. "I gave her the opportunity for visitation, and I think that she saw her once. She hasn’t requested visitation again from me," he told OK Magazine. "At this time, she’s not involved. That’s all I’ll really say about that."

Ultimately Birkhead, who says it's too difficult to date between his busy dad schedule and pressing media attention, aims to move the family back to Kentucky and raise his daughter there.

Howard K. Stern

After losing out on the paternity battle, Stern found himself right back in another legal dispute. He and two physicians were charged in March, 2009, with recklessly conspiring to supply Anna Nicole with ultimately fatal amounts of drugs, even while she was pregnant. Stern and one of the doctors was found guilty, but that conviction was tossed out in January, 2011, after it was determined Stern did not intentionally break the law or intend to harm his girlfriend/client.

Birkhead says that despite their nasty, public battle he and Stern remain friendly and Dannielynn has even visited him at his home several times. Stern said that Birkhead is "doing an amazing job raising [Dannielynn]." And Birkhead feels Stern basically got a bad rap and has generally been portrayed unfairly.

"Every story needs a villain and a hero," he told ET Online. "And I think Howard was made the villain."

Judge Larry Seidlin

The seemingly made-for-TV judge quickly emerged as one of the more colorful characters in this very grim saga. He unloaded one-liners, angst-ridden commentary and, perhaps most memorably, was reduced to tears all while presiding over the sensational trial to determine who'd receive custody of Anna Nicole Smith's remains.

He ultimately awarded custody (while crying) to Dannielynn to the then-five-month-old's attorney, denying claims made by both Stern and Anna Nicole's mother, Virgie Arthur.

Not long after his spin in the spotlight -- which spawned a pretty good SNL parody -- Seidlin retired, writing to Florida's governor that he wanted to "pursue the many opportunities that have been offered to me outside the judicial system." He wrote a book about the case titled "The Killing of Anna Nicole Smith" (yours for just $9.64 on Amazon) and sought to become the next Judge Judy, shopping a few courtroom TV shows. 

He shot a pilot for one titled "Psychic Court," which featured Seidlin chatting-up psychics and astrologists to help resolve small claims disputes.

More seriously, the Sun-Sentinel reported on a civil suit which charged Seidlin with "fleecing a wealthy, widowed neighbor of money and property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars." The parties reached an undisclosed settlement last November.

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