In “A Question of Murder,” the true crime book that gives an insider view of the death investigations of Daniel Smith, his mother Anna Nicole Smith, and others, famed forensic pathologist and lawyer Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, and his coauthor Dawna Kaufmann, reveals facts never disclosed before.
The following is a brief summary of Wecht’s take on the case — but you’ll want to get a copy of the book and savor it yourself.
In September 2006, Howard K. Stern and Michael Scott, at that time Anna Nicole Smith’s lawyer, placed a conference call to Dr. Wecht, asking him to perform a second autopsy on Daniel Smith. Wecht agreed, as long as it was understood that he would report his findings to them—even if they were not the findings they had hoped for—and that his report would be made public. With Stern and Scott’s assurance, Wecht flew to the Bahamas.
Wecht had noticed that coroner’s representative Linda Virgill had been in the media, feeding the frenzy that Howard K. Stern was a suspect for having harmed Daniel, his girlfriend’s 20-year-old son. It was time for Wecht to learn for himself why the lad died.
In Nassau, Bahamas Dr. Wecht met with Stern; Anthony McKinney Michael Scott and his associate Tracy Ferguson; and Wayne Munroe at a local beach club after being checked into the Atlantis, one of the Caribbean’s premier resorts. Wecht spent a lengthy brunch getting their background on Daniel, Anna Nicole and Stern. Stern said that Daniel had lost 25 pounds during the summer of 2006 and that he and Anna were alarmed. Stern gave a general rundown of the boy’s health, including hospitalizations, but there was no mention of Daniel having ever had a Valium addiction. When Daniel had arrived in Nassau to meet his baby sister and see him mom again, he was so excited he practically ran into the hospital room, according to Stern.
The book discusses Stern’s financial dealings with various magazines and TV shows, which Wecht felt was common practice in the entertainment industry and good business. Photo shoots of newborns and happy families always command a top price, Wecht explains.
Howard K. Stern describes the minute-by-minute events in Anna Nicole’s hospital room during Daniel’s visit. Smith only drank water or juice, as she had never developed a taste for carbonated drinks, it was reported.
Everything seemed great, although Daniel Smith once wondered aloud why he was so tired. Howard told Wecht that the comment later haunted him.
Nassau medical examiner Dr. Raju, with whom Wecht had worked previously on other cases, performed Daniel’s primary autopsy. He welcomed his friend Wecht and together they assessed the young man’s body once more, comparing notes. They looked at his stomach contents, but there was nothing noteworthy there, such as undigested pills or capsules. As Wecht worked, he made notes which have never been reported elsewhere.
Raju had attributed Daniel’s cause of death as “accidental multiple drug toxicity,” and Wecht concurred. Raju had sent tissue samples to LabCorp, an excellent basic toxicology lab in Tampa, Florida. When the results came back, Daniel was found to have had methadone, Zoloft and Lexapro in his system at death. All three were of a high therapeutic level but the combination of the three was what sent him into a fatal downward spiral.
SSuicide was ruled out because of, among other reasons, the open joy Daniel had shown with his new baby sister, “This family that should have been looking forward to the approaching holidays together, instead of having one of them dead and the others left to defend themselves against baseless charges,” Wecht wrote.
With suicide eliminated, murder, accidental death, or undetermined were the other options for manner of death. Dr. Cyril Wecht would have his own independent toxicology tests conducted with a separate lab, before he could assert how and why Daniel expired.
Dr. Wecht sent his own samples, collected during Daniel’s second autopsy, to the National Medical Services lab in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. In Wecht’s opinion, NMS is the premier forensic toxicology experts in the U.S., if not the world.
Following Daniel’s procedure, Dr. Cyril Wecht was met outside the morgue in the Bahamas by a barrage of media, consisting of reporters and camera crews. With Stern’s permission Wecht held an impromptu press conference, with attorneys Scott and Ferguson also present. In more than four decades of doing this work, Wecht had never seen such a constant and intense barrage of news media inquires, at the scene and for weeks to come.
After the press conference Dr. Wecht was driven to Horizons. He saw happy family photos adorning the walls, in sharp contrast to the red-rimmed eyes of Howard Stern and Anna, with whom Wecht had a touching and interesting exchange. Before she returned to her bedroom, Anna squeezed Wecht’s hand and thanked him for examining her son. “I don’t know how this happened,” Anna sobbed. “Daniel was a good boy — he wasn’t into drugs.”
The people at Horizons gave Dr. Wecht a good overview about who Daniel was and his relationship with his mother and Stern.
Later, still at Horizons, Wecht had a phone conversation with Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, who was both Anna Nicole and Daniel’s doctor. Kapoor confirmed that he had prescribed methadone for a then-pregnant Anna because it was safe for a fetus, but he had never prescribed that drug to Daniel.
When Dr. Cyril Wecht returned to the states, he saw that public interest in Daniel’s demise was still raging. Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren led a panel where talking heads suggested there had been foul play. Wecht marveled that so many people had opinions, without having seen the toxicology results yet.
Wecht spends a fair amount of time discussing how Daniel might have come to ingest the drugs that killed him. Both Stern and Anna Nicole said they did not furnish the pills, so where did Daniel get the medicine, who prescribed it to him, and why?
Over the next several weeks, Dr. Wecht continued to appear on TV shows to discuss this case, always with Stern’s blessing — but by no means did Stern have input on what Dr. Wecht would say.
Coauthor Dawna Kaufmann describes playing for private eye Jack Harding the video clip of Anna Nicole inviting Daniel to visit her in the Bahamas. This fresh insight is also exclusive to the book and fascinating to read. Harding tells of his encounters with Daniel, asking for the P.I.’s help in saving his mother.
Multiple sources—from Harding, to Anna’s mother Virgie Arthur to former pals and employees—have said Stern controlled Anna and doled out drugs to her every four hours. This book analyzes ever person’s commentary and their possible motivations.
Dr. Cyril Wecht says he received at least 20 phone calls from Stern, at all hours of the day and night, making specific requests, seeking information and urging the doctor to communicate with the toxicology labs and various people. Stern seemed to be aware of every comment about the case on every cable TV news program and in every magazine and newspaper, and appreciated Wecht’s skill in getting across accurate information in those sometimes fast-talking, sound-bite environments.
Drs. Raju and Wecht spoke frequently via their respective offices in Nassau and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, while awaiting the final toxicology results. There’s some charming personal information about how these two expert medical detectives viewed the media storm surrounding this case.
On Nancy Grace’s Cable Headline News’ program, information was given as fact that was later disproved by toxicology reports. But Grace’s show wasn’t the only one where wild speculation occurred. Wecht talks about watching many of them and wondering if they were more vested in promoting an agenda, rather than following the facts.
Dr. Wecht has many cogent observations about Virgie Arthur and her clear pain over losing a beloved grandchild and fearing for her daughter’s well-being. And Wecht gives rich details about his views of Stern, whose sincerity seemed genuine. Of course, Wecht was also mindful of the potential giant pot of gold these people, and others, might be chasing. In looking at the motivations of the many people who had been around Anna and her son, Wecht performs psychological autopsies and holds back nothing.
This riveting book also contains new details surrounding Daniel Smith’s funeral that I have never read in any other accounts. Included is Anna Nicole Smith’s plaintive wailing: “I don’t want my husband, I want my son back. Leave me alone, leave me alone. Don’t touch me!” Rosespeaks.com readers know what the nannies’ account of the day was like, but “A Question of Murder” offers another view.
Also revealed in the book is a prescription drug that Daniel took, which Wecht declined to identify during his Nassau press conference. Wecht explains his reason for mentioning it in the book, and why it should be part of Daniel’s autopsy record now. I must say the inclusion of this drug stunned me.
Daniel Smith’s full autopsy results, including the NMS Labs toxicology, were made public in January 2007. Around the same time, in Nassau, attorney Wayne Munroe became the sole attorney for Howard K. Stern and Anna Nicole Smith. Munroe would be behind every important behind-the-scenes move for the pair from then on.
More surprises come with Dr. Wecht’s accounts of the Bahamian Coronial Inquest, including how and why it seemed to start and stop. Wecht found two inquest witnesses especially problematic, and he paints a vivid picture as to who and why. One man’s testimony was so troubling to Wecht, it evokes a series of emails and calls between the doctor and Stern.
In the final analysis, Wecht writes his truthful views of all of the players in this case — the people we know so well at Rosespeaks.com. You may agree with him, or you may disagree, but you can’t help but be impressed by his decision to expose the full spectrum of personalities and events surrounding Daniel’s death.
And Dawna Kaufmann’s research and writing nicely fills in who this tragic 20-year-old was in life, making him a complex and fun human being who never got the chance to live his life to the fullest.
As convoluted as Daniel’s investigation was, Wecht notes the sorrow he left in his loved ones’ hearts. He ends the chapter with this thought about Daniel: “Hopefully, when [people] think of him, they will remember the joy of his life, rather than the mystery of his death.”
Rose Speaks.com readers will have unprecedented access to the authors, if you bought the book and have questions, ask them here, when Rose Turner talks to the co-authors if they can they will answer them. Don’t miss this rare access to the authors of “A Question of Murder”. If you have not picked up a copy of the book both Amazon and our favorite online store Barnes and Noble has it in stock.
NEWEST FILINGS IN THE TEXAS STATE DISTRICT COURT FOR HEARING ON AUGUST 28, 2009
August 27, 2009 Rose Turner’s Objection to Art Harris Motion to Reconsider the Appointment of Craig Ball with a Request for Protective Order and Stay in the forensic exam of his electronic media.
August 27, 2009 Rose Turner’s Exhibits B-H filed with Objection to Art Harris Motion to Reconsider the Appointment of Craig Ball with a Request for Protective Order and Stay in the forensic exam of his electronic media. Exhibit A as stated was filed for an in camera review before becoming part of the Judicial Record.
August 28, 2009 Plaintiff Virgie Arthur’s Response to Art Harris Motion to Reconsider the Appointment of Craig Ball with a Request for Protective Order and Stay in the forensic exam of his electronic media.
May 2009 Texas Appellate Decision of Designation of Responsible Third Parties is NOT wrong and in fact should and can be used to avoid the statute of limitations.
©Rose Turner with the aide Dawna Kaufmann
August 27, 2009
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