February 8, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith, 1967-2007

Anna Nicole Smith has died in Florida, her attorney confirmed Thursday.

Ron Rale said he did not know the cause of death and was waiting for the results of an autopsy, which is expected to happen Friday. Sources say Smith was rushed to the hospital after being found unresponsive in her hotel room at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., where she was staying with her companion, Howard K. Stern. "At 2:49 this afternoon we were advised by hospital personnel that Anna Nicole Smith died," Seminole, Fla., police Chief Charlie Tiger told reporters. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family."

Her 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn Hope, was not with them, sources say, but is being cared for in the Bahamas by the mother of Shane Gibson, a high-ranking Bahamian official who is a close friend of Smith's. Stern, with whom she exchanged vows in a commitment ceremony on Sept. 28, "is just devastated," Rale says. "He can't speak."

Before learning of Smith's death, Rale told PEOPLE, "She hasn't been well the past few days, she's had cold and flu symptoms." According to Access Hollywood, she was rushed to Memorial Regional Hospital shortly after 2 p.m. ET on Thursday.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles judge had ordered Smith, 39, and her 5-month-old daughter Dannielynn Hope to submit to a DNA test by Feb. 21. The test is tied to a paternity lawsuit filed by photographer Larry Birkhead, who claims he is Dannielynn's father. Smith's companion, Howard K. Stern, is listed as the infant's father on her birth certificate.

After the news of Smith's death, an emergency hearing was scheduled to occur in Los Angeles on Friday regarding the paternity of Dannielynn Hope, PEOPLE reports. Birkhead's attorney, Deborah Opri, wants to take a DNA swab from Smith's corpse, which Rale calls "the lowest form of behavior I've ever heard of."

Anna Nicole Smith had been enjoying a vacation weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel. According to Julianne Carelli, the public relations and advertising manager at the hotel, Smith checked in on Monday night and was due to check out Friday. Carelli says Smith was a "frequent guest" and celebrated her last birthday at the hotel and casino and filmed a TrimSpa video there. "We're shocked," Kathleen Hart, who is married to Donald Hart, Smith's stepfather "during her growing-up years," tells PEOPLE.

"We're just in shock. On the heels of Danny's death, it is hard to deal with." And Playboy founder Hugh Hefner said in a statement to CNN: "I'm very saddened to learn about Anna Nicole's passing. She was a dear friend who meant a great deal to the Playboy family and to me personally. My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and loved ones during this difficult time." Smith was a Playboy Pet of the Month in 1992 and a year later was the magazine's Playmate of the Year. Smith also rose to fame modeling for Guess jeans. "This is a very tragic and sad day," the company's CEO, Paul Marciano, said in a statement. "Personally I feek she did not recover from the loss of her son Daniel who was the love of her life." And in an interview with CNN, he said "she had something magic."


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