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Mexia says goodbye to celebrity son

Sunday, October 08, 2006

By Tim Woods

Tribune-Herald staff writer

MEXIA — The two worlds of Anna Nicole Smith’s son, Daniel, met Saturday at a church here as family and friends gathered to mourn the 20-year-old’s controversial death.

About 50 people attended the hourlong memorial service at First Baptist Church of Mexia for Smith, son of Anna Nicole, 1993 Playboy Playmate of the Year, and her former husband, Billy Smith, who still lives in Mexia.

On the one hand, there were the relatives who knew Daniel as a child in Mexia who liked to dress the part of a cowboy and ride horses, before he moved away with his mom, leaving this bucolic town of just over 6,000 residents behind.

On the other, there was the blond bombshell from Los Angeles who says she befriended Anna Nicole 15 years ago and knew Daniel as a young man, the son of a celebrity.

While Daniel Smith’s cousins remembered catching frogs and playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with young “Danny,” Jackie Hatten, who said she is one of Anna Nicole’s best friends, recalled Daniel as a sweet young man who kept to himself and kept his nose clean as an adult living in Los Angeles.

“Daniel was sweet, sensitive, respectful. He never cursed, never wanted to drink, never wanted to do drugs. He never even smoked a cigarette,” she said.

Hatten, a former volleyball star at Long Beach State University, said, “He was just very different from kids who grew up in this era. He was responsible, a straight A student. He was just a joy kid. It’s amazing, they say the good die young. . . . It’s so sad.”

The service opened with a local relative singing an ode to Daniel, which she wrote upon learning of his death.

Some of the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents — most of whom have not seen Daniel since he left town as a young boy — wiped tears from their cheeks as the woman sang.

Full-size cutouts of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — Leonardo was Daniel’s favorite — lined the front of the church as Daniel’s great-grandfather, Gus Moser, eulogized Daniel.

Although Moser said that he never knew Daniel, he spoke about salvation, offering hope to the crowd that they would one day be reunited with Daniel.

Daniel died Sept. 10 in a hospital in the Bahamas, where he was at his mother’s bedside after she gave birth to a daughter.

Pathologist Cyril Wecht, hired by the family to perform an independent autopsy on Daniel, found the cause of death to be a lethal combination of methadone, Zoloft and Lexapro. He had a prescription for a low dosage of Lexapro, Hatten said.

Hatten said that the presence of the other drugs should raise some eyebrows, especially given Daniel’s disdain for substance abuse after seeing Anna Nicole struggle with addiction throughout his life.

“Is a 20-year-old dropping dead in the middle of a hospital room suspicious to you, with no natural causes? You betcha,” Hatten said.

Hatten was hesitant to point fingers or name names but said that there were circumstances surrounding his death that led her to believe that somebody, other than Daniel, may be responsible for the methadone found in his body.

Anna Nicole, who is still in the Bahamas, has been difficult to reach since Daniel’s death, but Hatten said she has been told that Anna Nicole is crushed by the loss of her son.

“From what I understand, (Anna Nicole’s state) is not good,” Hatten, 33, said. “She’s not coherent very often lately . . . Through the grapevine, I’ve heard that she’s sedated 24/7.

“I know how I feel, so I can only imagine how she feels. That’s her pride and joy, he meant everything to her.”

Hatten said she intends to travel to the Bahamas within a week to support Anna Nicole, who she called her “sister.”

Billy Smith attended the memorial service, flanked by family, and appeared grief-stricken during and after the service.

He and Anna Nicole, then known as Vickie Lynn Hogan, met as teenagers when they worked together at Jim’s Krispy Chicken in Mexia.

The two wed when Anna Nicole was 17 and Billy Smith, 16.

Daniel was born on Jan. 22, 1986. The pair divorced about a year after Daniel’s birth.

twoods@wacotrib.com

757-5721

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