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Last Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007, 19:28 GMT
Model's corpse to be preserved
Anna Nicole Smith in Los Angeles in February 2005
Smith died after collapsing in a hotel room

A Los Angeles judge has ordered that the body of former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith be preserved amid a paternity row over her baby daughter.

The decision comes as a post mortem examination is being carried out on Ms Smith, 39, who was found unconscious in a Florida hotel on Thursday.

The judge ordered her body be kept until a hearing into the paternity of her baby daughter later this month.

Ms Smith's partner and a former boyfriend both say they are the father.

The judge declined a request from the ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, for a DNA sample to be immediately taken from Ms Smith's body to verify his claim.

Mr Birkhead's lawyer Debra Opri said the DNA was needed to connect Ms Smith with the infant "so that no-one can switch the babies", the Associated Press news agency reported.

Howard Stern, the model's lawyer and partner, also says he is the father.

Ms Smith's 20-year-old son, Daniel, died days after the girl's birth.

'Too many drugs'

The autopsy began shortly after 0900 local time (1400 GMT) at Broward County medical examiner's office in Florida.

Dr Joshua Perper, who is performing the autopsy, said if Ms Smith had not died of natural causes the findings of the post mortem examination would not be immediately announced.

"I am not a prophet, and I cannot tell you before the autopsy what I am going to find," Mr Perper said.

Anna Nicole Smith in a Feb 2006 file photo

Meanwhile, Ms Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, said she believed drugs could have played a role in her daughter's death.

"I think she had too many drugs," she told ABC television.

"I tried to warn her about the drugs and the people she hung around She didn't listen. She was too drugged up. The last interview I saw of her, she was so wasted," Mrs Arthur said.

But Ms Smith's lawyer, Ron Rale, told NBC that she "sounded fine" when he had talked to her recently.

"She's been obviously grieving still over Daniel and depressed but I didn't have any indication that she was on any medication or sedation," he said.

Courtroom battles

Ms Smith was born Vicki Lynn Hogan in Mexia, Texas, on 28 Nov 1967.

A former topless dancer, she achieved considerable success as a model.

She was named Playboy's playmate of the year in 1993 and secured a lucrative contract with Guess Jeans.

In 1994, she married 89-year-old oil tycoon Howard Marshall II after he repeatedly proposed to her.

His death just 14 months later triggered a long feud with his family over the inheritance of his estate which saw Ms Smith make regular courtroom appearances.

Former Playmate Smith dies at 39
09 Feb 07 |  Americas
Obituary: Anna Nicole Smith
09 Feb 07 |  Americas
Court win for ex-Playmate Smith
01 May 06 |  Americas
Ex-Playmate loses estate fortune
31 Dec 04 |  Americas

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